Friday, July 27, 2012

As the Dust Settles

Last night we made it back home. We were gone for five weeks, and were in the following 18 different states, just in case you weren't keeping track.
West Virginia
South Dakota

Some states we liked, some we didn't, and one we entered just to go to Costco and leave. Somewhere along the way my computer died, which resulted remarkably in only losing a few pictures and probably not much else. As we try to figure out our household computer future, these posts may be a little sparse.

When the boys ran into the house last night after the nine hour car ride they kept picking things up and exclaiming, "Remember this!?" In fact, they woke up saying the same thing this morning. They also keep saying, "This is our home! We made it all the way home!" Nothing like coming home.

Brian's sister is getting married tomorrow and so today we started the weekend wedding festivities. The boys are ringbearers ("I'm not a bear! I'm a Clark!") and I am a bridesmaid. In between Brian getting home from wedding weekend golf and heading off to the rehearsal today we also met a lender and signed all our refinance papers. Phew.

The boys were remarkable little travelers. On the way out to Idaho we took our time, but on the way home we put in three super long days, and the boys were fantastic. Even though I had reservations about taking them, I'm so glad we did. They loved the new things we saw, people we met, and places we went. We are so blessed to have amazing friends and family who are willing to host us in so many different places.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the last few days of the trip home.

Clark pitches a rock into the Badlands.

There are some places Twizzlers shouldn't go.

Cal protests the Corn Palace. (I don't blame him)

Seriously, Travelodge? You put your name on that?

Refilling Great Aunt Sue's birdfeeders in Minnesota

Learning to walk Stitch the dog-- with Uncle Jeff in Minnesota

With my Great Uncle Ray in Minnesota-- the maker
of the boys' Rocky Red rocking horse!

Indianapolis canal walk with Margo

The onion truck Cal was so excited to see that he begged to wake up Clark
to show him. He settled for me taking a picture.

Stinky feet

Ahh. Coming home

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Automatic Toilets Must Die: Let's Go Home Already

We made it to Rapid City, South Dakota last night after an insanely long trip that covered almost the entire width of Wyoming. Then my computer broke. Today we slept in late and hung out with a friend, her little boy, and her tiny twins! We did finally leave the house in the early afternoon and went to Bear Country USA, Mt. Rushmore (My siblings and I always called them the people on the rocks.), and the President's Slide, which is a slide you go down on little sleds after riding up a chair lift.

I think we're all ready to be home. And I'm extremely sick of foreign restrooms, specifically of the rest area and gas station variety. I think whoever thought automatic toilets were a good idea needs to sit on one that is malfunctioning for an uncomfortable about of time.

We're on the road again tomorrow...
We could watch the Nationals on Brian's new phone! He didn't, don't worry.

The only interesting thing we saw in Eastern Wyoming-- gigantic coal mine

Dream on, Scratch and Smooch. Your mugs will not be etched in a mountain.
It's the Presidents!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Blue Crayons and Craters of the Moon

Our first day of eastern movement has ended. We saw some friends today in Boise and then in Twin Falls, and then hit up Craters of the Moon National Monument, which is somewhere in a part of Idaho I had never been. Pretty cool even if you're not the lava-lover type. We walked around in the lava fields awhile and Brian found Jimmy Buffet's song Volcano his super, on-the-grid phone, and we sang it as we lava-walked. Then we drove to Jackson, Wyoming and had some spaghetti and ice cream. Along the way the boys had a little too much fun with a blue dry-erase crayon. On the road again tomorrow...

Cal colored me "an ocean."

Then both smeared oceans on their faces.
Cal on the moon!
Climbing up a spatter cone- a mini volcano
Lava brother hug

Lava hole!

At the top of a huge spatter cone crater

No closer, guys.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Almost Easterly

Alas, our westward travels have almost ended. We have almost turned east. We left my parents' house yesterday after two fun weeks at the lake with a bunch of my extended family and in and around my parents' amazing gardens. Thanks to Clark putting "batteries" in our wheel to "fix" it, our departure was delayed by about three hours, but we eventually made it. We had to have the car put up on a lift to fix the problem. Amazing. Now we are in the comfortable and always-lovely Boise at an amazing house with a large friendly dog, a devilish cat, an adorable little boy, and his two hospitable parents-- friends from Virginia. If I were doing a review of their house and general friendliness/hospitality they would get a solid 5 shouts for sure.

It is nice to spend time with some fellow Nats fans, catching up and watching a game. We've also spent some time with a friend eating pizza, with my brother-- the boys' Uncle T--, our lovely hosts, and we got some bonus Aunt Bean time here as well.

I have much to write about, including being marooned at lake and our national park adventures still from the drive out here. Stay tuned, for I will one day soon regale you with the tales. For now, a couple pictures from our first day in Boise. We'll be here another day before we head east toward our cozy home. I'll attempt to do daily updates again as we go.

Cal decorates his own pizza.
The little Nats players get down to backyard baseball business.
Clark fires a pitch right down the paznoosky (thanks Uncle A) to Uncle T.
Aunt Bean and Uncle T

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Kozy Cabin at Brook Trout Inn, Yellowstone

After a few days of outdoor fun in Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park, (write-up on those high-altitude adventures coming soon) we had only one more night to spend on the road before we arrived at my parents’ house in Idaho. We finished our day in Yellowstone and headed for a cabin just outside the park at Brook Trout Inn just outside the town of West Yellowstone. After a day of walking around looking at geysers and bison in the sun, we were ready for a nice relaxing evening followed by a low-stress morning. And we got it. The owner of Brook Trout Inn had the Kozy Cabin all set up for us, so we walked right in. The place doesn't look all that big from the outside, but it has plenty of room and all the log cabin charm you could ever want.

When we pulled in after Yellowstone, the boys were only a little sleepy.
There’s a big kitchen, a living room with a big TV with a million channels and a gas fireplace, a bedroom, a bathroom, and a big deck with picnic table. There’s a covered and walled-off area by the kitchen with a nice grill—you can grill in rain or shine. The bedroom has a King sized bed and the couch opens to a bed. Not only is the cabin charming and much nicer than your average hotel room, but the owners have anticipated every need you could ever have when staying away from home. The kitchen has everything from dishes to a crockpot to a blender to a toaster to a coffee maker with filters to a fully loaded spice rack to any utensil you may ever need. This is a place you could stay for weeks while exploring Yellowstone and any surrounding areas. 

That night we were able to lounge around watching baseball while eating sausages, baked beans, potato salad, and broccoli—a welcome change from eating on the road and hiking in the sun. We got to stay on the proverbial grid with the WiFi, and afterward we all slept like rocks. In the morning we had a leisure breakfast on the deck before we cleaned up and started the last leg of our trip to Idaho. 

Lounging with baseball
The boys played with this broom for about an hour.
Seriously. It was many things including
 a rocket and a hairbrush.
Scratchy and Smoochy enjoyed themselves immensely.

Sunset from the deck
The boys made themselves at home, spiking their hair
with water at bedtime.
Deck breakfast!
I highly recommend Brook Trout Inn as a welcoming, cozy place to stay while exploring Yellowstone. The Kozy Cabin is the smallest of the properties, but I can only imagine that the bigger properties are just as accommodating, especially for multiple families.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Denver Shouts

On our trip to Idaho we were able to spend two days and three nights in the wonderful, mile-high city of Denver. We stayed with a friend and her somewhat temperamental but adorable cat, Harrison, and also met up with a couple other friends in the city. We were able to pack quite a few things into the couple days without it seeming like we were running around like crazy tourists.

Children’s Museum of Denver: We met up with a friend, her husband, and their little girl at the Children’s Museum of Denver. We had a blast at the Richmond Children’s Museum at the beginning of the year and we love the Playseum in Washington, DC too. So the bar was high in my mind as far as children’s museums go. This one was no different. In fact, I think it might have to be my favorite of the three, and we didn’t even cover everything while we were there. The boys loved climbing in the old firetruck with their firefighter gear on. The bubble room was fantastic. Kids and parents can make and pop all kinds of bubbles. There are small safety glasses to keep the bubbles out of little eyes as they experiment with bubbles of various sizes and shapes. In one spot you could even make a giant, rectangular bubble around yourself by pulling on a rope! The art room was well-run and set up perfectly. Calvin was in heaven, since he considers himself an impressionist artist. At one point he was painting the same picture with both hands at once. What I was most impressed by was the recycling station. There was something similar at the Richmond’s Children’s Museum, but this was above and beyond. At these stations, at which adult supervision is needed probably for all kids, but especially for kids under 10, there are real tools and blueprints for various projects. Most of the materials are recycled objects—egg cartons, cereal boxes, toilet paper tubes, etc. The boys and I modified a soda bottle boat blueprint and made little sail boats. Unfortunately it was lunchtime and we had a couple of hungry and tired boys, otherwise we would have explored even more of the museum. Next time we’re in Denver I hope to find more time to spend at the museum.


Ceiling fan artist
In the giant bubble!
Bubble engineer
The recycling/construction area
These blueprints were organized by difficulty 
Hammond’s Candy Factory: While looking online for factories to tour, I came across Hammond’s in Denver. First off, the kids got little paper hats to wear and then we were ushered into a room to watch a movie about the history of the company. It’s a pretty cool story of a family-run business that started small and has since grown, but all of the candy is still handmade. Seems like we learned most of what we needed to know, and were able to see more of the process in the video than we could on the tour. What I learned that I didn’t want to know was the amount of corn syrup and sugar that goes into each of their batches of each of their candies. Gross. Didn’t make me want to eat any of it. Our guide was scattered and extremely hard to follow as she was showing us what was going on in the factory. There are only a couple windows to look through, and not much was going on by the windows. We did get to see a huge red and white candy roll get stretched out and turned by hand into candy canes, which was cool. At the end of the tour the kids get to dig through a bin of “oops” candies—broken pieces of wrapped lollipops and candy canes—to pick out one piece to take home. That was about the only thing geared toward kids. Everything else was the guide was saying was over their heads. At the end of the tour we were conveniently briefed on the various sales going on and ushered into their store full of beautiful candy. Overall, this tour is not terribly interesting, especially for kids. At least the tour was free, so we didn’t feel like we’d lost anything. I do not recommend taking the time to go on this tour.


Peering little candymakers 
Workers hand-twisting candy canes
Fourth of July candy display
Wings Over theRockies—Denver’s Air and Space Museum We thought about going to the aquarium, but didn’t think we had enough time to make it worth the cost, so we found Wings Over the Rockies, the Denver air and space museum. The boys love space, so we thought this would be a safe bet. We live by the Udvar-Hazy SmithsonianAir and Space Museum, which we absolutely love, and it seems like it would be hard to top—they have the space shuttle Discovery for crying out loud. The cool and unusual thing about Wings Over the Rockies is that you can touch almost everything. You can walk under some of the planes, and in a B-1A plane you can put your head inside the bomb bay and see pretend, to-scale models of atomic bombs. They also have manikins dressed in period garb by some of the planes, which was mostly cool and only creepy a couple times. There’s one of the actual X-Wing Fighters used in the Star Wars movies that is autographed by some of the actors and production crew. A mock-up for a proposed space station model was donated by the creators after the model was rejected. You can’t go in it, but you can look inside. The museum is in an old hangar so there is a lot of space for kids to run around, which is one thing we love about Udvar-Hazy as well. This was a surprise find, and one that I highly recommend to anyone visiting Denver, even if you don’t have kids.


Rotating display in the entryway that they boys loved
A museum employee gave the boys little model airplanes.
The sides were removed to show the engine.
Wheels, Clark for scale
Bomb bay of the B-1A
Model passenger plane
Touch and look!
Star Wars souvenir

Colorado Rockiesbaseball game: The boys love baseball and they did well at the one Nationals’ game we’ve gone to this year, so we took them to a Rockies vs. Nationals game at Coors Field. By the time we bought tickets there were only the more expensive ones or the $4 cheap seats—a section called the Rockpile way out in centerfield. We opted for the cheap ones and came a little early to stand by the Nats dugout, toting the boys in their Nationals garb. They were excited to get to see some of the players they know up close and personal. Then we headed to our seats, where the boys were not all that involved in the game since we were far away. They were also extremely active, so it wasn’t a super pleasant experience. Also the Nationals lost, so that was a bummer. I recommend paying a bit more and buying closer seats. And if your kids don’t like baseball, don’t go. If you can leave your kids with someone else and if you like baseball, it’s a nice park to watch a game, and has a beautiful view of the city.

3 SHOUTS (with 3 year olds)

The few times Cal wanted to sit down, he wanted to sit by himself
for some reason.
Our first time seeing Stephen Strasburg...unimpressive unfortunately
No wonder they didn't care about the game, right? Check out the view.
At least Scratchy and Smoochie enjoyed the romantic view.
There are a lot of outdoor things to do around Denver, but they are more fitting for older kids. Hopefully next time we can take advantage of those. If you're in Denver and have other insights on fun things to do with kids-- I'd love to hear them!
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