Rain at last

We’ve had smoky skies for the past few weeks. At times, it was so thick that it smelled like a campfire outside and we couldn’t see the lake. But yesterday and today we’ve had some much-needed rain, and it’s washed the smoke away. It’s a clear view across the lake. More important than our view, however, this rain has greatly helped the firefighting efforts in the area.

Today there’s some mist over the trees. Thank goodness for moisture!

That’s a wrap

It’s been almost two years since I started my Invisalign braces treatment. Today the orthodontist said the work is finished, and now I only need to wear a retainer at night.

Although these have been kind of a hassle at times, generally speaking people didn’t even notice I had them. I don’t have any nice “before and after” photos, but here’s one from just before I started my treatment. Take a look at those bottom teeth. They look like someone put a bunch of ivory pegs in the wrong holes.

Although it’s not really visible in the photo above, my top front incisors were also going awry– one was tilting forward while the other tilted backward. I felt like it was finally time to do something about it.

Now here I am with Ollie (again) and things are much straighter.

As someone who typically has his mouth open during photos, it’s probably a good thing that my teeth don’t look like a jigsaw puzzle gone bad. I’m glad to be finished wearing the aligners all day, and even more glad they worked well


Pepper and I spent some time laying in the courtyard tonight, stargazing and watching for meteors. It’s the annual Perseids shower, and we were expecting to see a shooting star roughly every minute. Alas, we were disappointed… we did see several spectacular ones, but they were few and far between.

When she turned in for bed, I pulled out my camera and took a few shots. They didn’t turn out very well, unfortunately.

Although there are a few faint satellite tracks, I failed to capture a meteor in flight. No worries, though– it’s always amazing to lay out under the stars on a cool summer night.

Kids’ visit: random moments

To wrap up my posts about the kids’ visit, I present a few random pictures I took during the week.

Uncle Zack shows Ollie some little puzzle toys he found in the giant bin he (Zack) keeps at our house in storage.

Although Zack and Alex brought swim trunks, they forgot to bring swim shirts. Pepper dug up a few, but they didn’t… quite… fit.

Kyra relaxes on the shore of Flathead Lake. I’m pretty sure the tube belongs in the water, but I shouldn’t judge…

A gentle rain falls on Holland Lake. As usual, we took them to that area for a nice hike on a cooler day.

Here we are at the waterfall:

On some stretch of highway, Zack and I attempted to go fast enough to enter hyperspace.

Kyra, in the back seat, wasn’t impressed.

Speaking of Kyra, one day she made lunch. It consisted of half a piece of ciabatta bread, a little bowl of baked beans, a cup of chocolate mousse, and (for whatever reason) a tiny cube of cheese. I’m not kidding… this was her lunch.

Alex brought some smoke bombs, which Ollie loves to watch. Zack had an idea.

That really made Ollie laugh.

Alex had a sore back– due, he said, to a few too many wipeouts on the tube. Pepper brought out her massage tool, and Ollie wanted a turn.

I completely forgot to take a picture of all of us in a group. Shame on me. But as Julian was leaving, I snapped a fun selfie.

That pretty much sums up our week. Good times with good folks.

Kids’ visit: games

Of course we played games. That’s our family thing. Zack has been playing Magic with friends for a couple years, and really enjoys it, so he brought his decks and convinced me and Alex to play. However, he’s an expert whereas I’ve only played maybe twice in my life a decade ago, so he trounced the two of us while we sat there kind of dumbfounded.

We played Wingspan, but it’s a five-player game and there were six of us, so I made a custom player mat. It actually worked quite well!

Zack proceeded to win Wingspan with the highest score I’ve ever seen. He had an amazing combination of cards. Even Aron, the biggest Wingspan player I know, was astonished when I told him about it.

Alex and I spent a couple hours playing Terraforming Mars. In the past he’s always beaten me, but I had the upper hand this time. It’s a great (but long) game.

Kyra pulled out the Quest VR headset, and we took turns impressing each other with our Beat Saber skills. Zack has a technique different than the rest of us: he just sort of waves his hands in a smooth, fluid motion. The rest of us fling our arms everywhere. I mean, when you have two lightsabers in hand, you should fling your arms, right?

There was a lot of pool (and Skunk), as well as ping-pong.

Spikeball was a hit; Julian particularly liked it. After he left, he went back to Washington and promptly bought his own spikeball set.

Alex spent some downtime working on his latest Dungeons and Dragons campaign. He has a weekly game (or maybe two?) with friends all over the country, so he often has to put together new maps and adventures.

There were also some exercise workouts, although when I watched Kyra and Zack it wasn’t entirely clear how much of a “workout” they were actually getting by pumping these little five-pound weights.

There were plenty of other games: Sparts, Deuces Wild, Skull King, Splendor, Cover Your Assets, Skull, and on and on. Although I have ample opportunity to play games with local friends throughout the year, there’s something special about doing it with my kids. I particularly enjoy those “proud dad moments” when one of them uses a clever strategy to absolutely demolish me. It reminds me that I’ve taught them well.

Kids’ visit: jet skis

Ahh, the jet skis. They’re invariably the highlight of our friends’ visits here, and our time with the kids was no exception. Alex, Kyra, and Kaitlyn have all been here in previous summers and had their turns with the jet skis, but other than our trip to Cancun, I’m not sure Zack’s been on one. He warmed to it pretty quickly.

Since Flathead Lake is so big, if we want to do more than cruise around Yellow Bay, we need to take the jet skis. The kids and I decided to go cliff-jumping at some rocks across the lake. It’s about seven miles as the crow flies (or the jet ski jets, I guess) so we headed out. Although he was new to driving, Zack did a good job and he and Alex tested some different ways to ride together.

Kyra and I were on the other one:

The cliff jumping was a hoot. It doesn’t look very high from the water, but believe me, when you’re standing at the edge of the rock, fifteen feet feels like fifty. We all did a few “wimpy” jumps and then graduated to some higher spots along the cliff. Here’s Zack about to do twenty feet:

Back at Yellow Bay, we pulled out the tube. By law, if you’re towing someone in a tube behind a boat or jet ski, you’re supposed to have a “spotter” on the back watching whoever’s in the water. Obviously it’s for safety, but our jet skis aren’t very powerful so having two people on them, plus a person being towed, means it’s difficult to maneuver. Smaller kids are fine, but all of us are adults and it just wasn’t very fun. So, we threw safety out the window and went with one driver, one in the tube, and a “chaser” who was on the other jet ski watching for problems. It worked well, and it led to hours upon hours of fun.

Here’s Julian pulling Zack:

And a little while later, here’s Zack getting his revenge on Julian:

After a day on the water, we noticed Trixie (Pepper’s jet ski) was a little sluggish. You’d punch the throttle– as you should always do on these things– but she wouldn’t zip up to speed. On a hunch, back home I peeked at the wear ring and saw that it had been destroyed. At some point we must have sucked up a rock or a twig. Fortunately the wear ring gave way, as it’s designed to do, and didn’t hurt the engine. But it meant some repairs. One morning Julian and I grabbed a socket set and disassembled the jet nozzle area.

We popped a new wear ring into place (always have a spare!) and Trixie was as good as new. We took her out to confirm she worked, and I got a great shot of Julian zipping past:

Time for more tubing! Even Kaitlyn got in on the action, squealing with delight (yes, squealing) as Kyra whipped her across the bay. Julian had his GoPro with him, and managed to capture some awesome footage of the action– including a few glorious wipeouts.

At times I’ve wondered whether jet skis were worth the investment all those years ago, but when we have days like this, I know they were.

Kids’ visit: Ollie

The kids all came up to Montana for a summer visit. Their work and school schedules aligned perfectly, and we were excited to see them all together. Zack’s never been here in the summer, other than a few days before we’d actually moved in, so it was an added bonus to finally show him all that Montana offers in the warm months. We also invited our nephew Julian.

We did a lot during their visit, so I’m actually going to break up my blog posts into a few sections. This first one will be dedicated to Ollie. He’s two and a half now, and has the energy and curiosity that all two-and-a-half-year-olds seem to have. I think he enjoyed the lake, but it was hard to tell because he’s kind of a stoic little kid. For example, here he sits with me on the jet ski:

Part of the problem might be that he needs to wear a life vest, and it’s a little big for him so it limits his body and head movement. I can see how that might be frustrating. I even let him drive a bit, but unlike most kids who visit us, he didn’t scream with glee.

Maybe Uncle Zack is more fun than Grandpa? Nope, Ollie still didn’t show much enthusiasm.

Grandma took a run at it, with the same results.

Wow, look at that excitement!

Okay, so maybe riding the jet ski isn’t his cup of tea. How about riding in a tube with Mom while they’re towed by the jet ski?

Ooh, a little smile there!

It turns out what he really enjoyed was running up and down the dock! He’d race Dad and Grandpa to the end of the dock (Grandpa didn’t try very hard)…

We did that for about half an hour, and then he discovered the fun game called Push Dad off the Dock. He’d come roaring down the dock toward Alex, who was standing at the end, and give him a little shove. Alex would dramatically scream and fall into the water. Ollie would laugh and laugh.

Another favorite activity, we learned, was playing with our ancient Fisher-Price village. This is one of those toys our kids played with (in fact, we’ve saved it all these years). And when I was a wee lad, I had the same things: the barn, the house, the cars and school bus and so on.

Fisher-Price also makes a train set with tracks you can customize, and he’d literally play with it for hours.

Alex built a little treasure chest with wheels (long story) and Ollie would load it up with toys and just run around pushing it everywhere. Who knew kids could be entertained with such simple things? Who needs jet skis when you have a box with wheels, right?

During the course of the week, it was great fun to spend time with our only grandson. He may not look excited about much, but when he smiles it just lights up the place.

We treasure our time with him and love seeing him learn to talk, and start figuring out how the world works. Little kids are great.


We have a really tall front porch. The wooden archway reaches at least thirty feet above the concrete, and although it looks cool, it’s impossible for me to maintain. Even if I had a ladder tall enough, I wouldn’t be comfortable climbing it. Well, a few years ago a woodpecker put a hole in the wood, and then an enterprising squirrel realized he could get inside the roof to build a nest. I admired his ingenuity, but didn’t want a squirrel living in our porch. We’d hired a gutter cleaner, and I bought some chicken wire and asked him to staple it over the hole. Since then, it’s proved a good deterrent against future squirrel homes.

Until now. Somehow a squirrel (the same one as three years ago?) managed to pry it up enough to squeeze inside the hole. We’ve seen him running up and down the pillar, carrying nuts and pinecones to stash away for the winter. Again, I’m impressed but need to put a stop to it.

Enter Doug, my friend who happens to own a window-cleaning business. He has a lot of long ladders and isn’t afraid to climb them, so when he was at the house taking care of our windows, I asked him to add some staples to the chicken wire. Let’s seal it off once and for all!

So Doug climbed up thirty feet, armed with my staple gun, and added about fifty staples to the chicken wire. It’s a very thorough job, and that wire isn’t going anywhere. No more squirrel problems!

… But shortly after Doug left, we saw a little squirrel head in the hole, gnawing at the wood from the inside in a frantic effort to get out. Doug had knocked on the wood, hoping to scare out the critter (there was really no way to tell if he was in there when Doug was stapling) and it seemed fine, but we were mistaken. Now we had a squirrel trapped in the porch roof, and although he had plenty of food stashed in there, he didn’t have any water. He really worked on that hole and actually made some impressive progress– much to my chagrin, because the last thing I need is a bigger hole– but the next day he apparently gave up. We didn’t see him again.

I’m guessing he died up there, and at this point we’re hoping he wasn’t able to get into the house before meeting his maker. Otherwise we’re going to have a repeat of October 2021

Carcass truck

Pepper followed this truck down the highway today.

At one point they had to pull over to pick up another deer carcass by the side of the road. Now there’s a job I don’t want…


Our summer thus far has been smoke-free. Although there are wildfires burning in southern Canada and many areas of the West, somehow we’ve escaped the drifting smoke. That came to an end today as a fire across the lake sent towers of smoke into the air.

It’s sad that fires and smoke are just part of life in the West, but that’s where things are today. We often pray for those affected by the fires, and those fighting them.