Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Out West Road Trip: Part 2, Yellowstone

We'll skip the three day car ride (that we crammed into two, thanks to our diehard little travelers!!) and fast forward straight to Wyoming. Let's begin by saying that if you are coming from anywhere east, "you can't get there from here" is Yellowstone's theme song. The shortest distance between two points belongs only to the birds. But the winding way is beautiful, if a little steep, and SO worth its reward.  It even offered a secluded picnic table by a mountain stream for our peanut butter dinner.

Moving right along, here we are at Yellowstone.  We're taking the southeast entrance straight up into the snowcaps.  Remember to swallow so your ears don't hurt.  While we're climbing, you should know that before our visit is over, you will feel like you've been to several completely different planets.  When you come to the first visitor center, be sure your kids get their Jr. Ranger packet so they can earn their patch by doing the activities as they go through the park.  We LOVE those park rangers for taking care of the kiddoes!

The first stop is the Lake Yellowstone area.  Huge and beautiful, with smaller, placid lakes adjoining it.  Moving clockwise to the geyser area, Old Faithful is the big draw.  But there are many others, and as we waited for OF, "The Plume" started gushing RIGHT behind us.  Very fun!  (But hold your nose.) Next we went to the colorful prismatic hot springs area.  I had never heard of this until we started planning our trip.  It is stunning!  Then up to the northwest corner to Mammoth Hot Springs, with its cascading mineral formations.  (Watch out, that's an elk at the trail entrance.  Just ask her to pose for a photo, and then step aside.) And quickly over to the east, you'll reach the waterfalls and Grand Canyon of Yellowstone area.  Don't miss Artist's Point, and the stairway down into the canyon to view the falls.  Breathtaking!  (On several levels.  The benches on the landings are there for a reason--use them!)

It's taken a couple of days to see all of this, and we could have done more!  But now it's evening, and we'll want to make the descent down and out of the park before dark.  Instead of groaning when you come to a traffic jam, get out the camera.  This is when the wildlife comes out for dinner.  Don't worry, we won't be getting out of the car (unlike some of the crazy people we saw). We saw the elk earlier, but now it's the moose, the bison--LOTS of bison ("oh give me a home where the buffalo roam..."), and the yellow bellied marmot. (Uh huh, that's right.  Just consult the wildlife guide Ben bought with his vacation money.) There's Chip--or is it Dale? Watch out!!  That's a grizzly bear!

Wish you had your binoculars?  You can get a closer look at everything here.

Well, I know how exhausted you must be.  The next leg of our journey will take us back to South Dakota.  Stay tuned.  But first, take a moment to honor our Jr. Rangers.  Thank you, Mr. Ranger, sir!

Out West Road Trip: Part 1

I am basking in the freshly formed memories of another vacation. I'm sure you will be alarmed  pleased to know that I have condensed the trip down to 117 photos. Well, not that I deleted the several hundred others rest, but I know that probably about ten would be enough for anybody to want to look at.

But let me tell you that ten photos could not begin to do justice to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Or the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota.  So I am going to share them in bite-sized posts over the next few days.

Pack your virtual bags and come back soon to join us on the first leg of our journey. There's not much space left in the minivan, but Bethany has several seats left on the stagecoach. (Don't forget your map! We like to keep track of all the license plates we see along the way.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

We're Back!

We just got back from a wonderful road trip to Yellowstone and the Black Hills (South Dakota). I've got piles of laundry and more than a few pictures to sort through, but I'll be back soon with more about the trip.

As I watched the sun rise over our campground in Wyoming, I was reminded of this:

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; 
his mercies never come to an end.  
They are new every morning.  
Great is thy faithfulness."  
Lamentations 3:22-23

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Countdown to Vacation!

There are sure to be some much better Wordless Wednesday photos ahead. But meanwhile, I would LOVE some of your best ideas for car ride activities and travel foods. Go ahead, leave me a comment!

Friday, July 11, 2008

"Many hands make light work"

It's amazing what we can accomplish together. I have always wanted to set the kind of example for my kids that makes service to others as natural as breathing. The thing is, it's much easier said than done. With many volunteer opportunities, people with small children are invited to participate if they leave them home.

One summer day a few years ago, we received a flyer saying that a group was collecting food for the community foodshelf, and that they would pick up any extra food we could donate the next day if we had it out on our doorstep by a certain time. I was grateful that the kids could help me pack some up in a bag to put on our step. It happened that I was outside when the collectors came by. They were two moms with their school-aged kids and several friends. I told them how glad I was that they were doing this, and they told me that they were just trying to keep their "tweens" busy doing good things. They had several others lined up. I'm STILL smiling thinking back to that conversation, because it opened my mind to some very easy and effective ways to make a difference.

So this year I recruited my Moms In Touch group (more about them later!) to involve our families in a few opportunities this summer. Today we collected about twenty bags of groceries from our neighbors to give to our local food shelf. How exciting is that! And it couldn't have been easier.

Afterwards we had a picnic together to celebrate. It was all so much fun...and all because of the example of a couple of other moms who simply served.

How about you? How have you involved kids (especially young ones!) in service to others? Please share!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: The Fourth of July

Note: For those of you who would like a few words with these photos, click on the Fourth of July link to go to the photo set and a description. Especially about the turtle.

Monday, July 7, 2008

To My Favorite Cashier

Dear Janice,

I am so thankful to Target for knowing an efficient cashier when they see one.  You are the ultimate.  You and I both know that when I come to your line without my kids,  I have most likely timed my arrival at home with theirs to the millisecond, and that my competence as a mom depends on yours as a cashier.  You have never let me down.

Until today.  I was, of course, relieved to discover that there was only one customer with a few items in front of me in your line.  But today you made the fatal error.  You offered the credit card so he could save 10%.  And he said, "Sure!"  The only problem was that Juan didn't have a driver's license.  Or his passport.  Or any valid ID.  Neither did his friend Miguel.  NOT that I'm saying Juan doesn't deserve a chance to save 10%.  Just not when I'm next in line and my friend is due to show up at my house with my kids any minute.

So please, Janice, just one teensy little favor?  Next time I come to your line without my kids, could you kindly refrain from extending the offer?  Because my reputation as a mom is depending on it.  I promise to stop at the service desk on my way out and tell them that you always make me one satisfied customer.


P.S.  What?  You can't?  I know, I know.  You were SO hoping Juan would say no.  Well, misery loves company.  I'm with ya.