We went camping this weekend with some of our friends.

I am an early riser at the best of times, but when I am camping I am usually awake as soon as it starts to get light. I enjoy being awake early, and I like sitting at a fire while it is still cool and say my rosary.

On Saturday, of course, the children were also up with the sun so there was very little solitude first thing. By Sunday a full day of play and a late night had taken some of the bounce out of them so I had about an hour and a half sitting there, tending the fires. My goal was to burn what wood we had left, but to make it last a couple hours so that I could boil some water when everyone woke up, and at the same time to burn it as cleanly as possible without leaving any unburned chunks behind.

The trick is to have a shape that allows you to get enough oxygen in to allow the wood to burn, but not so much that it just blazes away. So I built my fire very carefully with the larger pieces and the half burned logs, split some kindling from a dry plank with my knife, and got it going with some crumpled newspaper. After the initial blaze died off I kept a pretty good frame with two of the bigger pieces, and built my coal bed in the middle. I laid one piece at a time across the frame and let each one burn away to coals which fell into the gap between the frame before adding the next. This worked until my frame was burned. Then I scraped the coals against the metal firepit and used that as my frame.

It worked quite well. I had a lovely bed of coals and only one more piece of plank at 7:30 when everyone else was starting to get up. We made some coffee and hot cocoa, and then burnt the last piece.

As I worked I said my Rosary and meditated.

The mistake most people make with their camp fires (and the reason you usually find the fire pit full of half-burned bits and ends of logs) is that they just let the fire burn out as it lies. Each individual coal, left to itself, loses its heat to the atmosphere too quickly to sustain the combustion necessary to consume it entirely. In order for the dying fire to be kept going, it has to be scraped together. You must huddle all the coals together in one place as closely as you can where the ones at the inside can provide the inner, glowing heart of heat, and the ones at the outside can take advantage of the oxygen and keep burning. This preserves the coals that you will need when you do put a fresh piece on.

It seems to me that this is sort of what is going on the Church in America right now. We are bleeding off members, and even those that do remain tend to be isolated. We show up for Mass on Sunday, we say the responses, half-heartedly mumble the songs, and leave without talking to our fellow parishioners when the Mass is over. There are no processions, no confessions, few prayer groups, low attendance at parish events, and for most Catholics our primary social circle and our parish circle are two separate groups. That is, we spend the majority of our time with people that we are not going to Mass with.

Without banding together and reinforcing our faith, our fervor grows cold, and goes out.

It also occurred to me that the first part of the fire, when the paper and wood takes off, was always my favorite part as a kid. The bigger the flames, the better the fire, in my opinion. That still holds true. I love big flames, just for their own sake. But that is the immature form of a campfire. That is not the useful fire. The fire that is useful for boiling water, cooking food, heating a house or a camp consistently, is the fire that is mostly coals. The dirty flames from all the brush, bark, cardboard, and other impurities have burned away and what is left is the solid heart of the wood, slowly being consumed. The harder and tougher the wood, the better the coals, the more useful the fire.

And of course, whenever the coals start to get lazy, all it takes is a little pneuma to get them going again.

Hello all!

Daddy came home on Sunday! He and his buddies started driving as soon as they were done with work on Saturday and drove through until midnight with only one major mishap involving a flat tire in the middle of nowhere and a (probably) shady tire dealership. We crushed some miles and got in a little after midnight so Daddy was able to be home when Mommy woke up on Sunday morning. And then a little later when the little girls woke up. Ellie was holding up her hands and saying “Hug! Hug!” about every five minutes for the first two or three hours. So it was good to be home.

After Mass and lunch we drove up to Uncle Adam and Aunt Maryanne’s house for burgers and dogs.

Aunty Kathleen figured out that all you need to do to be the center of attention for a bunch of Kraeger kids is to hold the food. All except Evie. She is strange and gets so excited she forgets to eat.

Ellie loves her Grandma Ann dresses, because they have pockets. Real pockets. Useful pockets for putting useful things in, like grapes and rocks and pinecones.

Tri-tip with bacon/veggie stirfry. Daddy is still in Team cooking mode, as you can see by the prominent lack of carbs.

Wednesday we made bread. Ellie helped.

We also made the dough for the doughnuts Mommy was planning on making for the Fourth, so that it could sit in the refrigerator and chill. Ellie is going to be a great cook someday, or baker, or both. She pays attention and has patience, and she loves dumping things and mixing things.

Evie is more of a “free spirit!”

We got a shredder from amazon, and Daddy shredded about a bushel and a half of newspaper shreddings. Evie and Ellie helped Daddy put it in the composter, which, we are happy to say is doing really well.

We have a few thousand worms, it looks like, with a beautiful bottom layer of well broken-down compost. It should be perfect to muck the garden with by the time winter comes.

Not much else to report until Thursday, which was the Fourth of July, obviously.

Naturally, we took the opportunity of a free day off in the middle of the week for everything it was worth. The girls drove, just to change things up a bit, and Daddy and Mommy rode in luxury in the back seat.

We went to a local orchard and purchased three flats of currants. Why three flats? Because Ryan has a poor eye for how far a given volume of fruit will go when transformed into jelly, and Kathleen has a taste for biting off more than she can chew.

Ellie helping herself to a container of currants. Sorry, Kiddo, those are already picked and cleaned. You get the ones in clusters and pick them yourself.

That was a lot of picking and cleaning, but then it was time to set up the SQUEEZO!

Everyone loves the squeezo. It’s been a hit since it was first introduced in the early 20th century. A four-year-old can mill eight pounds of currants in 10 minutes,

And maintain her attention almost the whole way through with only one short break.

It’s pure magic. Then of, course, comes the real art of mixing the sugar and pectin in the right quantities and boiling at the right temperature for the right length of time.

Careful! Hot Stuff!
And some boiling jelly.

Evie can’t help with that part yet, so she contented herself with cleaning up every last trace of spilled juice.

I have to say, I think it is one of the prettiest looking jellies Kathleen has turned out so far.

We spread the seeds and mash along the back fence behind the tiger lillies, the fence line that the neighbor’s weeds keep creeping under. Maybe in a few years the next owners of this house will have a private hedge/weed barrier of currant bushes.

More likely our friendly neighborhood possum family will have a delicious free snack.

After nap snack break.

Then it was time for Daddy to get some coals going and set a dutch oven of oil on to heat,

Waiting for the pot to boil.

while Mommy shaped the dough into nuts.

Doughsnuts!

Note to selves, it takes about an hour and a half for that DO to get up to 250+ degrees with 20 coals under it. This might be because down in the firepit it doesn’t get great air flow. If we do this for a party or something we’ll have to take that into account.

Of course the heat doesn’t have to be very precise, so we would probably just hang it over an open fire. But then again there might be issues with flair ups whenever the oil dripped or splashed. Coals are a good option, they just require a little extra lead time.

Today, Mommy had to go back to work so it was just Daddy and the girls. We ended up going up to Deedee and Papa’s house. Ellie helped pick strawberries.

Chipmunk Cheeks!

And Daddy split some more of Papa’s firewood and the girls had their first lesson in stacking wood.

And that’s all for this week, folks. Have a great rest of your weekend. Keep us in your prayers! God Bless!

Another week of Daddy being gone has passed. Everyone has been very busy.

But it’s still important to take the time to stop and smell the Daisies.

Last Sunday Mommy took Evie and Ellie up to Deedee and Papa’s house to visit.

Ellie is still not sure why she should smile at the phones that people are constantly pointing at her.

This was also the week of Emma’s birthday party next door. Since the fence is still broken, it was relatively easy for an invitation to make its way over to our side, and for our kids to make their way over to their side.

Meanwhile, Mommy kept herself busy by pulling out Daddy’s old Texas Skillet, the one he has owned for more than a decade, the one that has sizzled a metric ton of bacon in its time and has never been washed, and which also has been living on top of the cupboard in the kitchen for a couple years because it started burning on and Ryan never made the time to strip and cure it, where it has been collecting dust and grease from the old broken oven vent before Ryan fixed it…

You know the one.

A few weeks ago Kathleen read in her 1930’s homemaker manual that the way to strip cast iron is to boil potato skins in it. It worked on her smaller Texas skillet (it’s more of an Oklahoma skillet, really) so now she tried it on the far nastier big skillet. It worked quite well actually, and she was able to heat treat it and cure it with vegetable oil. We’ll see if Ryan can remember to maintain the seasoning when he gets back.

Ryan has been busy also, long days of training,

It may seem like a lot of effort, but the National Guard is called upon to perform the same missions that Active Duty is called on to perform, but we have only about 40 training days per year to prepare for them, compared to at least 250 training days on Active Duty. When you think about that it makes sense for us to go out in the middle of nowhere and really knuckle down to getting after it for the few weeks of AT we get.

Evie is doing her own training, these days. Without being prompted she accurately pointed out the spot on the lake that we visited when we were in Glacier three weeks ago.

We assume that she remembered it from the big wall map Kathleen showed her when she was there, since she can’t read yet.

She is one smart cookie!

Our peas have started producing too!

Between our peas and the neighbor’s peas (they are on vacation and asked us to pick their peas while they were gone) we are pulling in about half a colander at a time. Not bad for two tiny little plots.

And that’s about all the happenings this week.

Daddy drew a picture of a bunny in the letter he wrote to Ellie, so she decided to play bunny.

We hope you have had a good week and continue to have a wonderful weekend. God Bless. Pray for us.

This has not been a very Family Friendly week, starting with the weekend. We make the most of it as usual, but it has been a bit rough.

Saturday was a busy day. We spent the morning transferring ownership of Grandma Betty’s car to us so that Mommy will have a commuter to take to work, and our larger car can stay home and fit all the carseats more conveniently for when Grace has to take Evie to school.

Then Daddy had to go up to the Armory in the afternoon to finish packing gear for Annual Training. We went to Saturday evening Mass together, and then Mommy got called in to work. So it was one of those days that we just didn’t get a whole lot of together time.

But at least we had lunchtime together, and Mommy made Daddy a glorious large pan of patio beans for his trip.

Then on Sunday Daddy got up before the sun to drive out of state with a few other guys for Annual Training.

Ironic, really, leaving for AT on Father’s Day. Of the guys out here, only one doesn’t have kids yet. Welcome to Special Forces, even in the Guard.

Once we arrived there was the obligatory shaving of the face.

Before we can successfully guard the nation we must first divest ourselves of our panache.

Then let the training begin.

Good to get behind the gun again. And also it is really pretty country out here.

Evie informed Daddy that he needed to write her letters while he was gone. That is what she learned from the Korea trip last year.

There you go!

Mommy’s letters take longer to write. We have had a little time for sightseeing between events. Ryan got to visit a very beautiful local Church.

My home away from home.

Meanwhile back on the homefront, Mommy continues to hold the course with the girls. They spent Sunday at Deedee and Papa’s house celebrating Father’s day.

This week was also Evie’s last day of school for the year!

We are so proud of this big girl! She has learned her letters and her numbers and has done a wonderful job of learning to listen to her teachers and get along with her classmates. She works hard and has so much energy!

Mommy is run quite ragged, but she still manages to get things done, and still have time to hang out with the girls.

Deedee and Papa were able to come over earlier this week as well.

With the nice weather there is a lot of playing in the Hammock.

It is the best place to relax.

Daddy can’t wait to get home and relax there with his girls.

Evie erasing the days, one at a time, until Daddy comes home.

That’s all for this week, folks.

Oh, and also Ryan got official word that he passed his national certification exam last week. He is now officially a PA-C.

And that really is all for this week. We hope you guys had a great week, and have a wonderful weekend. See you later! God Bless.

Hello, Folks! It’s time for another Family Friday! We hope you have been having a great week. Ours has been… productive.

Any time you enter the week riding on a great black concrete bear, you know it’s going to be a good one.

It has been a busy week, but more of an odds-and-ends kind of busy, not so much a major event kind of busy. Laundry,

gardening,

harvesting,

That’s just the first pick, since then we’ve been getting about 1.5 quarts per day.

cooking,

canning,

Kathleen found a recipe for Peony Jelly and decided to try it. It turned out tasty and a gorgeous color but didn’t jell to a full jelly consistency, more like a warm jello consistency.

cleaning…

Okay, let’s be honest, cleaning impacts our schedule pretty minimally because we don’t do very much of it. Sweep the major floors (as opposed to the minor floors, right?) every couple days, and mop maybe once a fortnight-ish. We begin to see the wisdom in our ancestors’ division of labor, with one of the spouses primarily in charge of the outside, and the other primarily in charge of the inside.

But, welcome to America in the 21st century, where we both work outside the home at least 40 hours a week. And when we talk about the 40 hour work week, which became the American standard in the days when you lived within walking distance of your workplace, we don’t necessarily consider commute times which varies in Ryan’s case, but for Kathleen adds another 1-2 hours to her day, depending on traffic.

And of course, the small people continue to insist that we feed, clothe and shelter them. Or at least they would insist upon it if we ever fell far enough behind in these tasks for them to feel the pinch. Well, maybe not the clothing part. Ellie, for one, would be perfectly content to roam around in her diaper all day in this nice weather. And she has some rather colorful diapers, so it could potentially be borderline socially acceptable, and might save us about 1.5 minutes in the morning…

Ideas!

But who are we kidding? The one who takes up all the time in the morning is Evie. Sometimes all you can do is just keep them contained while you knock out a few quick tasks…

But I digress…

Deedee’s birthday was on Monday so we went out to all you can eat buffet on Sunday evening. We didn’t take any pictures of that, because, let’s face it, one AYCE buffet looks pretty much like any other. But we did take a picture of the girls playing in the mall play area afterwards.

You can see Deedee’s hands hold a phone on the right. Does this count as a picture of the birthday girl?

Happy Birthday, Deedee!

With the nice weather we have been having a little more success with our gardening. The cone flowers we planted back in march have come up.

Only two have come up, which means we probably put them in too early when the ground temperature was too cold and most of the seeds rotted. These two represent the survivors.

Ellie is getting bigger and more accomplished as a climber. She can now climb up in the net at the play ground, she can climb into the first crux of the Japanese maple by the deck, and she can climb out of her crib without assistance. She still can’t open the door of her room, but that’s a-comin’.

She had to join Daddy on some frantic errand running yesterday while he desperately (and unsuccessfully) tried to pull together all the stuff he needs to go out for annual training next tomorrow. The major piece of equipment he was looking for wasn’t ready, so improvisation will have to occur.

As usual.

But it was the Army’s birthday, and they had cake at Military Clothing and Sales, so that was a win!

She was done after 3 bites. Not much of a sweet tooth, that one.

And that’s all for this week, folks. We hope you have a wonderful rest of your weekend. God Bless!

Keep on trucking!

Made “Grill Quiche” last night, and it was quite easy and a hit with the small peoples, so thought I would share.

You will need:

  • A Grill
  • Cast Iron frying pan or dutch oven, well-seasoned.
  • Bacon Grease
  • A kielbasa
  • 4 cups mixed veggies
  • 6 eggs
  • Half cup of heavy cream
  • 1 – 2 cups of shredded cheese (I used Mexican blend).
  1. Heat the grill to medium, around 350 degrees, and set fry pan on the grill. When hot, add in the bacon grease.
  2. Chop the kielbasa into half inch or less chunks, thaw mixed veggies and drain well.
  3. Pour sausage and veggies into frying pan. Stir it around a few times to get everything coated with bacon grease, then let it sit and cook in the hot grill for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until sausage is all hot.
  4. Beat eggs and cream together, and pour over sausage and veggies. Let sit and cook until eggs are almost all cooked.
  5. Top with cheese.
  6. Remove when cheese is all melted.

It’s a pretty forgiving recipe. I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off the whole time I was cooking it, and I also dumped all the sausage on the deck before I put it in the grill. It still worked well enough, and I had the last third of the pan for breakfast this morning so I can vouch it warms over well.

During our recent trip to Montana Kathleen and I took the opportunity to sample some of the local cuisine and brews. As always, most of it was okay, some of it was bleh, and some of it was fantastic. That’s life, right?

I think it was in the context of sampling some beer that we got on the topic of cheesemaking. Evie was coloring nearby as we talked, which also influenced the course of our conversation.

Photo by NastyaSensei Sens on Pexels.com

As you may or may not know, Kathleen’s family is Swiss. That is, dairy and cheesemaking run deep in her family history. There are pictures of her ancestors only a couple of generations back carrying giant copper cheesemaking kettles in parades in full Swiss garb. Partially because of this history, and partly out of curiosity, I recently listened to an Audible book called “Switzerland: A Village History.” The author traces the history of one village in Switzerland, his home village, through almost a thousand years of Swiss history, with the goal of providing a window into Swiss culture as a whole. How well he does showing that Chateau D’oex is representative of Switzerland as a whole is up for debate, but the book was enjoyable, if somewhat overtly politicized at the end.

At any rate, the most memorable part of the book for me was his description of the daily life of the village in the Middle Ages, starting with the advent of cheesemaking as the primary source of income for the village and the country (it is somewhat anachronistic to call Switzerland a “country” at this point, but we’ll let that slide for now).

All the village cows belonged to the village herd and pastured on the village common land. In the spring they would be herded up to the alpine meadows in a grand parade with bells, ribbons, music, dancing, feasting, etc. Each cow would be milked, and their output would be carefully weighed and computed as a percentage of the total output of the herd.

Then the village boys and young men would essentially live on the mountainside all summer, tending the cows. They would move them from pasture to pasture, milking each one every morning and every night while the cheesemaker and his apprentices would follow the herd with their buckets, bowls and cauldrons in tow. All summer long they would make cheese, either out on the meadow or in special cheese making huts.

The cheesemaker was arguably the most important man in the village. He was a man who had spent decades of his life perfecting his craft. He had to judge the quality of the milk by sight, taste and smell, check temperature and consistency by feel, know exactly how long to simmer the milk at exactly what temperature, without the benefit of a thermometer or a timepiece. He had to know the right time to harvest the rennet and add it, how to form the cheese, age the cheese, cure the cheese. Every grade-A cheese he turned out was money in the village pockets (individual families were paid a percentage of overall profits based on the percentage their cow or cows had produced on the first day of pasture. See above.) Every lesser grade cheese he produced was money lost.

You had better believe he kept a close eye on his apprentices. He taught them his trade, but he also severely limited their ability to cause disaster. The apprentice cheese boys probably started out splitting wood, trimming fires (itself a delicate task when the temperature must be maintained within a few degrees without a thermostat), scouring kettles. Then perhaps they moved up to straining the milk, skimming the milk, cutting the rennet. They were probably not allowed to start mixing ingredients or stirring or actually doing anything that could potentially ruin a cheese until they were in their mid to late teens and had demonstrated the maturity and ability to attend necessary to keep from burning the cheeses. They were probably started off on the smaller, inferior cheeses made from second or third skimming, intended for local consumption by the cowherds themselves. Only gradually would they be allowed to move up to higher quality milk and higher quality cheeses. When a man produced his first grade-A cheese deemed by his masters as being worthy of being shipped to market, it was the culmination of decades of training.

In a word, the cheese masters most likely trained their apprentices in a manner similar to the guild apprenticeships of medieval Europe (admirably treated with a lively gusto in Peter Ackroyd’s “Life of Thomas More” and to a lesser extent in his magnificent “History of England” see especially Volume II. The guilds receive a much more nostalgic and rosy treatment in Anthony Esolen’s “Piolitically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization). Our conversation meandered to the guilds and their role in shaping and teaching their various arts. Nowadays when we use the word “art” we instinctively think of something that is essentially extra. An art is something that is nice, like singing, painting, drawing, acting, poetry, fiction, etc. The connotation is of something that doesn’t really matter. Of course we all agree that art is good, and great to have around, and what would our culture be without art, etc. We pay our “artists” obscene amounts of money to sing and dance and act for us, but in the final analysis, we think of art as not real work. We have separate categories for real work (useful, somewhat coercive, reliably earns a wage or delivers a paycheck, somehow necessary to the sustainment of life as we know it) and art (frivolous, done solely by and for enjoyment, does not reliably earn a living except for a tiny minority, the world would go chugging on quite well without it.)

The ancient’s were not so split in their thinking. Read any of the dialogues of Plato and you are guaranteed to hear him blathering on about the “art” of the farmer, or of the physician, or of the gymnastic instructor, and comparing it to the “art” of the rhetorician or politician. More recently, look at the cheesemaker, and all of his guild master colleagues in all the various guilds. This was real art. This was art that really mattered. It really mattered because the village depended on it for their livelihood, but also because it became a matter of pride for a man to become a master cheesemaker. The day he stood before his masters, and they judged his work worthy, and recognized him as a master and a peer, was a great day in the life of a man. It was the day he took his place in the community, in many ways, it was the day he became a man.

Before he got to that point he was taught, trained and criticized. His every mistake was pointed out and corrected, sometimes harshly. His masters treated him as if the art really mattered, and he had better be willing to sacrifice his own ego and his own ideas for the sake of that art.

Contrast that with our attitude toward the teaching of art. When the school budget has to be balanced, what is the first thing to go? The arts. When we send our kids to college what degrees do we tell them to avoid? Arts. Art is an extra, an elective, and most tellingly, it is a class that no one can fail. All you have to do is “do your best” and express yourself. In a word, we treat art as something that doesn’t really matter. With the things that really do matter we don’t say “just do your best.”

We fire people who don’t enhance productivity, regardless of whether or not they do their best. No one gets through medical school on the basis of doing their best or expressing themselves. They had better be expressing the views of the CDC, the AMA, the ACOG, the APA, etc. They had better be meeting the standard.

The old masters treated their art as if it really mattered.* They expected discipline, and sacrifice, and respect for the art. You had to show that you had mastered the art that was given you before you were deemed to have anything worth expressing. Did it crush spirits? Probably not as often as we might think. Spirits are greatly determined by expectations, and if you were a boy with no expectation except being an apprentice and learning an art and eventually becoming a master, you probably adapted to it just fine.

I would not say that theirs was a superior way of teaching. But I do wonder what would happen to our “art,” which, lets face it, is mostly very bad, if we started treating our chosen art like a master cheesemaker, with an entire village’s livelihood simmering in his kettle.

*An argument could be made that the attitude toward the art was not the primary difference, but a result of the primary difference between their art and hours. The primary difference might well have been the theological outlook. Was it Dorothy Sayers who said that bad theology always leads to bad art?

In which we go on an airplane trip! (Ellie’s first. Evie, of course, is a veteran traveler).

It was only a about a 75 minute flight to Kalispell, MT, but SEATAC is a busy airport in the morning, and we had to fight Seattle-bound morning traffic on the way to the airport. This meant early rising and being at the airport early and lots of excitement and missed naps.

Ellie approves of the trunk space.

The upshot being that we had two very tired baby girls who were passed out before we left the airport parking lot in Kalispell.

Arriving on Friday afternoon we didn’t really do a whole lot except buy groceries and get checked into our air BNB. Actually, I suppose we didn’t really get checked in because there was no one to check us in. We just, I don’t know, walked in.

Mommy and Ellie doing some coloring in our room.

After getting our clothes and food put away, we headed out to walk around the town. After being stuck in a carseat/airplane all day, our girls had some serious sillies they needed to shake out.

The town of Whitefish is very small, but has a fairly large grassy park that the girls could run around in with trees that they could climb. Or rather, a tree that Daddy could climb, and the girls could wish they could climb. Our rule is if you can’t climb it yourself, you can’t climb it at all.

And they had trains to watch!

It’s a touristy, artsy little town, well worth walking around in, but overall geared towards taking your money.

Although this bike is brilliant!

On Saturday we headed out for Glacier National Park. On the way we saw our first real wildlife of the trip…

Yes, that is a silver fox with a squirrel or ground hog in its mouth.

It rapidly became apparent that there were going to be some constraints on our trip. For one thing…

The park is HUGE! It covers millions of acres and crosses the border into Canada, and is home to five distinct climate and wildlife zones (Pacific Northwest, Alpine, Boreal forest, Grassland prairie and Rocky Mountain).

“Whoa, Mommy, that’s a big map!”

The park crosses the border, but the Canadian side of the park was on fire, (hence the hazy, smoky look to some of the pictures). We thought about going to Canada anyway, but there is only one road that crosses the park, known as “Going-to-the-sun Road,” and it was still blocked with snow from the winter. To get to the east side of the park, and from there to the Canadian side, we would have had to drive two hours around the south edge of the park. With two little people in car seats, that did not seem appealing. So we settled for exploring just the tiny little southwestern corner around Apgar visitor center and MacDonald lake.

But first we had to convince the girls that they could not have everything in the visitor center.

So we set out hiking from the visitor center. Evie was leading the way with Mommy…

Using the map in her national parks book to help us find the trail.

Yes, that is a picture map of the entire USA. She was quite sure she could find the trail on it.

It’s okay, Evie, we love you whether you know how to read a map at four years old or not.

We stopped at a bike rental station, but all the child trailers were out, so we reserved bikes for the following Monday and moved on. Evie and Ellie did not want to move on. They were quite content to play in the kayaks at the rental place.

MacDonald Lake was gorgeous, albeit somewhat obscured by smoke.

And it came supplied with rocks to throw and trees to climb!

After a picnic lunch we decided to rent a rowboat, as they are relatively stable and safe for rambunctious four-year-olds, and the price was very reasonable, less than $20 for an hour.

It was lots of fun. Evie is very excited about going out in Papa’s boat later this summer.

Huckleberry ice cream on the way back to the car.

It was a fun day, and we went to Confession and Mass for First Saturday in Whitefish. Afterwards we went out for supper, but this was a bit of a fiasco. Both girls were tired, and Ellie was so tired she couldn’t even eat properly.

Although she did try to eat the wooden bear’s wooden fish.

Evie and Ellie discovered the mesmerizing wonder of front-load washing machine, a.k.a. cat TV.

But after a good night’s sleep, we were up and at it again, heading south this time to a museum called “Miracle of America Museum.” This is a private collection of vintage historic artifacts running from pre-colonial to mid-20th century American history and culture.

Essentially the folks who run it are glorified hoarders who spent a lot of time organizing their hoard. But they had a ton of interesting stuff. I find it interesting that the see-saw, metal merry-go-round, and metal slide are now museum pieces. Are you kidding me? I grew up with those!

Some beautiful country out here.

That was a lot of time in the sun and heat for baby girl. She was plum tuckered out by the time we got to our picnic spot at Flathead Lake State Park (East).

So we had some lunch and then Evie went in the lake (as far as her ankles). Before long Ellie woke up and was so excited by the water that she didn’t even want to eat lunch. We couldn’t even get her to sit still for some sausage!

On the way back we drove through more absolutely beautiful countryside. We saw a couple of spreads that we would love to buy, and fell even more in love when we realized that they were within a mile of a Catholic Church!

Sure it only has Sunday services now, as far as we could see, but once we buy all the land, relocate the locals and move in the entire Kraeger clan the Catholic population will probably double and at that point we’ll rate a full time priest.

And check out the backdrop!

All in all, great Sunday. We went back to our room, nice and tired.

Monday we had to be up nice and early to be out there for our bike ride. Let’s just say, expensive, but BEST TIME EVER!

We are considering getting one of those trailers for home, although Puyallup is not very bike friendly. Most of the roads outside of downtown don’t even have a shoulder, let alone a bike lane.

Then back to Lake MacDonald for snacks and tree climbing.

Much clearer today than on Saturday.

After lunch we headed up Going-to-the-sun Road as far as the south end of MacDonald Lake. It was only a few miles but it was a long drive because they were busy resurfacing the road after winter damage. It wasn’t too terrible, though, because Ellie fell asleep and Evie enjoyed playing with her magnadoodle.

The Lake McDonald lodge was amazing! We were especially impressed by the fireplace.

I am pretty sure we are going to put one like it in our living room when we build our new house.

Lunch time outside the lodge, at the junction of the river and the lake.

That was another full day, and we topped it off with supper at Craggy Range Bar and Grill, which was phenomenal. We were very impressed with the burgers, which come with the top buns branded with the restaurant logo.

The Smokey Classis cocktail, quite interesting with real woodsmoke in the bottle! How crazy is that?!

And then it was Tuesday morning. Time to go home.

Evie loving her some coloring with her new travel activity bag.

Ellie, true to form, slept the whole flight.

Best traveling buddies!

Ellie, for one, is very glad to be back home where she can water her plants again.

The rest of us… Well, let’s just say there was something to be said about not having to drive in rush hour traffic. Kathleen got stuck behind these folks for about an hour on her way home from work last night.

And the worst part was they just drove like that for an hour and then sped up and drove away for no apparent reason. Silly WADOT!

That’s all for this week, folks. Have a great rest of your weekend, and remember to pray for us.

God Bless!

Well! This week was a barrel of monkeys.

Or a bucket of Ellie. Same thing.

We already wrote earlier this week about our visit to the cemetery for Memorial Day. Or rather, the Sunday before Memorial Day. After visiting at the cemetery we went to Deedee and Papa’s house to visit and then visited Dude and Susie.

Always a hoot

On memorial day Daddy and Evie did their best to cook the most patriotic and American breakfast we could think of.

Start out with a little bit of red, white and blue…

A.k.a. strawberries, blueberries, and Bisquick.

When will they ever be done?!

Add some bacon and a little bit of sausage, and voilà!

#Murica!

Then we went down to Dupont for a hike with our good friends Margie and Dane, and their daughter Zellie.

Setting out on our grand adventure.

For our hike we chose sequelachew park which is a 1.5 mile trail from behind the Dupont police station down to the water on the sound.

Ellie gets to ride, because her legs are short.

It is quite a lovely trail, broad and well-maintained, that slopes gently downhill to the water.

Evie and Zellie stopped to collect some nature.

It runs down an old railway grade, so the slope is not very dramatic and there is plenty of nature for the little people to hunt.

At the bottom, the trail goes through an old rail tunnel from when they used to have a dock down there.

This is the only place where there’s any track left, but it runs underneath a working railroad track that runs along the edge of the sound from north to south.

Once you go through the tunnel you arrive on the beach which, like most Washington beaches, is entirely composed of rocks of various size. Far from being a disadvantage, this is a most excellent thing when you are small and want to throw rocks in the water. It also works when you are big and want to throw rocks in the water. This beach comes handily supplied with rocks rated for all your rock throwing needs, at least from 18 month girl to 34-year-old BCFF.

There are also some pretty decent rocks that you can climb on.

All in all, for being a 3 mile round-trip, the steady uphill grade for the entire way back makes it a bit of a smoker especially if you are carrying a rucksack with an Ellie on top of it. After our hike, we enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch before heading home to relax for the rest of the day.

Daddy is trying to step up his grill game, so the girls are helping him study.

The neighbor kids came over in the afternoon to test out the sturdiness of the hammock pole after Ryan added three bags of quick-crete. At 50 pounds apiece, that’s 150 pounds of support at the very base of the pole, so it should do the trick.

It may still have a little bit of shake to it, but at least it’s not leaning precariously like it’s going to pop out of the ground it any second.

After nap, Eli wanted to come outside but no one was available to put her shoes on right away, so she helped herself to her sister’s shoes, put them on her self, and walked on outside.

On the wrong feet and everything just like a proper toddler shoe should be. And then she proceeded to get them soaking wet. This is also very right and just for a toddler shoe.

Mommy has been working hard with her new business, selling bags two ladies who need to carry things around in their life. This, in my experience, includes pretty much every lady ever.

Ellie likes to help by explaining the various virtues and benefits of each bag and accessory item.

She’s been getting pretty good responses too, complete with live Facebook videos and other fancy stuff like that.

We spent all day Thursday packing and getting ready for our trip this weekend.

Ellie says, “This works for me. I’m ready to go.”

When Evelyn got home from school, she thought that was a good idea so she joined her sister.

Evelyn reading “The Knight and the Dragon” to Eleanor.

In case you were not familiar with this during tale, you may listen to Evelyn’s rendition of it here.

Or not, since the mobile app won’t allow me to paste the link in apparently. You’ll just have to imagine it.While some liberties may have been taken with some aspects of the story, it was, nevertheless, heartwarming and profound as ever.

Last night, we got together for pizza to celebrate Ryan finishing PA school.

Ellie is impressed

It was a surprise get together, Ryan thought we were just getting together with Deedee and Papa before we headed out for the weekend.

Instead, all of these folks showed up…

And piled on top of Deedee.

And we got our party on like we were graduating college.

Then, we went home and finished packing. We staged all of our rucks by the door as they should be.

Not to mention our suitcase and car seat carrying bags.

And then everyone was up bright and early this morning

Ready for our next big adventure.

So have a great weekend everyone, we will see y’all next week.

God bless!

Enumclaw Washington is one of those rare towns that still observes a very old and noble tradition, that of visiting the cemeteries to honor the graves of the dead. Kathleen’s family generally visits the cemetery on Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and Father’s Day. In fact, our very first Family Friday ever was about Memorial Day cemetery flowers. The local Catholic parish used to go to the Old Crane cemetery on All Souls Day (not sure if they still do), and a lot of Enumclawnians go to the newer Enumclaw cemetery to put candles on the graves of loved ones.

We went up there today for the Memorial Day weekend, and planted flags and flowers.

And of course, as with most of you, my facebook feed has been flooded with “Remember the Fallen,” posts all day. My friends are pretty evenly divided between military guys and their families who honor the fallen with a fierce, almost touchy respect, that almost dares you to go ahead and say something against our fallen servicemen and women; and the more left-leaning crowd who gently acknowledge that, yes, they were brave to lay down their lives, and we can respect that sacrifice, but let’s take a moment to question the political and economic structures of violence and oppression that sent them over there in the first place.

And then there are the folks that are more like: “Any excuse for a BBQ, y’all!”

My own thoughts on memorial day, patriotism, sacrifice, courage, honor, the military service, politics, violence, peace etc. are too complex and complicated to deal with here. I have known my share of guys who were wounded, inside and outside, by the war. I have attended more military funerals than I wished to. It is definitely right and just to honor the fallen.

But as a Catholic, as I was walking through that cemetery today, a phrase kept repeating itself in my head:

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace. Amen.

From the Traditional Requeim Mass

You see, I’ve known a few military guys in my time. Most were decent sort of guys, according to their lights. Some few were humble, heroic giants among men. A few were sleaze-balls. But all were sinners.

This is where the Catholic understanding of visiting cemeteries differs from that of most people in the world. For us it is not primarily about remembering our loved ones, or honoring the courage of those who laid down their lives, or trying to connect with our past. These are all good things, but they are not the real reason we go. The real reason we go is to pray for their souls.

There is a tendency in our world to eulogize the dead, especially the military dead. We no longer say “funeral” we say “Memorial service” or “celebration of life.” We say “so-and-so is in a better place now,” or is “with Jesus.”We tell stories that cast our loved ones in the best possible light, magnify their virtues, minimize or make light of their faults. These are good and healthy instincts. Time should soften our memories, make us deal mercifully with those who went before, as we hope to be dealt mercifully with we go. But that is not the real business of the funeral Mass, the Requiem, and the subsequent visits to the cemetery.

The Church’s business is to remind us of the hard truth that we are all sinners. The greatest saint stands in need of mercy. We have forgotten the doctrines of hell and purgatory. Some people may be refusing friendship with God, even down to the last minute. Many more may be putting it off, or ignoring it, or too distracted or busy to think about it, or bound up in some addiction and unable to accept it. We say “So-and-so is in heaven now” but what we should say is that we hope they are in heaven. The truth is we don’t know.

This may sound harsh. It is not meant to be. As I said it is good and healthy to remember the best, forgive and forget the worst, and hope all things on God’s infinite mercy. That is exactly the point. Instead of prematurely canonizing our loved ones when they die, we should be praying for them. Offering sacrifices for them. Requesting Masses be said for them.

I have known a few military guys who are no longer here. None of them were saints, any more than I am. All were sinners, just as I am. I honor them with flags and flowers, with my training, with our gardening and barbecuing. But I also pray for them, as I hope someday someone will pray for me:

God, have mercy on their souls.