Monday, September 26, 2016

Wild Wonderful Wyoming

Wyoming.  The state that was my home for a short time.  The state in which I wed my husband.  The state that calls me back, speaking to my heart, the mountain air speaking to my lungs.  Like an addiction, I think about it, long for it, aching to put my feet on the trails that scar the mountainside.

Scott mentioned in the early part of 2016 that we needed to get back to Wyoming.  We hadn't been there since our wedding in 2010 and it was time to introduce our children to our favorite piece of land.


As summer came to end and we looked for a fall escape, our eyes landed on the western part of the states.  Plane tickets were booked and room accommodations were made.  The mountains had called and we were on our way.

As our plane landed on the tiny runway of Jackson Hole, the bright yellow aspen dotted the landscape in every direction.  The mountains rose up towards the heavens shining brightly in the sun.  And there with my little family in the shadow of the Tetons, I felt a peace that only these mountains can give.


We checked into our hotel and within minutes Paisley began asking when we could go hiking.  Wanting to run with the excitement he was feeling, we quickly pulled on our hiking boots, checked out a can of bear spray, and into the mountains and through the woods we hiked.


Lila happily rode in her carrier on daddy's back and Paisley raced ahead.  I often yelled for him to slow down as I didn't want him to be mistaken for a small snack to one of the predators that call this land home.  Both kids did excellent as we logged a couple miles before heading back to our hotel, The Rustic Inn.

It was our first time staying at this resort and we were beyond pleased!!  As the sun dipped below the mountains fire pits were lit and we gathered around them roasting s'mores.  Lila curled up in my lap and with marshmallow stickiness in the corners of her mouth gave in to sleep and slept in my arms under the starry sky.  These types of moments burn themselves into my head to revisit in the future.


The next morning we relaxed at the resort letting the kids play in the pool and dangle their feet in the hot tub.  By mid-day Paisley was ready for more hiking (who is this kid?) and Scott plotted our path.  This was a longer hike that lead deep into the mountains and ended with mountain top lake.  It was absolutely beautiful.  

As we passed other hikers along the trail they were full of positive words towards our little hikers and gave them encouragement on what "big kids" they must be to hike in the mountains with their parents.  While Lila didn't log many steps on any hikes, she was more than happy to be along for the ride, literally.

Back at the resort we packed our bags and prepared for the following day in Yellowstone.  We were sad to leave our beautiful cozy little cabin at the Rustic Inn but the kids were ready to see bison and thermal areas.  I was ready to drive alongside the Tetons, my favorite mountain range in the world.

The Tetons
The next morning we headed into Grand Teton National Park, returning to the exact area I had lived in 13 years before, the spot I had married Scott 6 years prior, and now returning with our 2 wild and carefree babies.  It was as if life came full circle and that moment of being there, in my favorite place, with these 3 people that make my life complete, was absolute perfection.

We met up with some friends that were also vacationing in the Tetons and we shared a cabin in Colter Bay Village.  The accommodations were small, but when we're on vacation, we're only in the room to sleep and get dressed.  Snuggly memories were made as Lila and I slept in one twin bed and Scott and Paisley were a few feet away in another twin bed.


We set off to Yellowstone bright and early with the plan of driving the lower loop.  The kids were beyond excited to see bison up close from the safety of our car.  They were hypnotized by the steam escaping the thermal areas and loved pointing out the different colored bacteria growing in the pools. We did a few small hikes inside the park and soaked in the beauty of the falls.


We knew 1 day in Yellowstone wouldn't be enough but with the sun threatening to set on us, we started making our way back to Jackson Lake Lodge.  We arrived just in time to watch pink and golden hues kiss the tips of the mountains good night and sink below the horizon.  We ate dinner on the back deck of the lodge, within eyesight of the spot Scott and I said our vows.  We were joined by our friends from back home as well as a friend that still lives in Wyoming.  We cuddled our sleepy babies and listened to Elk bugle in the willows below us.  We knew our memories of our day in Yellowstone were imprinted on all our minds and would have to satisfy us until we had another opportunity to return.

There is never enough time in the mountains.  This vacation, while not nearly long enough, filled my soul.  It was everything I wanted for our family vacation.  It was time together, it was time with friends, it was time in the mountains exploring and learning, it was seeing wildlife and having fun.  It was a trip none of us will ever forget.

My recommendations on a few things:

In Jackson Hole, the place to stay is the The Rustic Inn
Located in town, very clean, nicely decorated, kid friendly, with an excellent buffet breakfast included!  Beautiful property with fire pits, teepee and boardwalk around the creek.  

Place for breakfast, Pearl Street Bagels
My favorite was an egg salad with banana peppers on an everything bagel.  It will make your tongue slap your brains out.
Enjoying a cast iron biscuit at the Bar J

Dinner and show, Bar J Chuckwagon
Family friendly, serves delicious western dinner, songs performed by the Wranglers dotted with humor and wit.  It was a little pricy, but the kids loved the music and we were happy with the food.

Souvenir for kids/adults, Passport to Your National Park
This book has a section for each of America's National Parks.  The book is colorfully done and includes maps and a section to place a stamp in each park visited.  Most visitor centers will have a stamp for each specific park as well as a date stamp.  Our kids clutched these passports from the moment we bought them and frequently ask to see the stamps we received from GTNP and Yellowstone NP.

Hikes, Taggart Lake GTNP
3 miles round trip leading you to a beautiful natural lake.  A few inclines but easy enough for a 5 year old.  Beautiful views of the mountains, forest, and wildlife watching.  This is a popular trail.

Fairy Falls Yellowstone NP
This 5 mile hike is a flat (easy) walk that takes you through thermal areas, new growth forest, and ends at a beautiful pool of water being fed by a 200 foot waterfall.  Not as crowded as other trails but popular enough the ground is packed hard.

Do you have your passport?









  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Birthday Gifts

I remember when my parents turned 40.  In my mind I thought, "man, that's old!"

As the calendar showed the date of my birth upon us, and I turned the corner from "early 30's" to "late 30's" I am happy to report that almost-40 didn't really seem old.  In fact it felt/feels good.  It feels better than 20 or 25 or 30 felt.    

I remember in detail how excited I would get about the mound of presents wrapped in pink paper and fluffy bows that had shown up on my birthday every year since birth.  Yet the older I get, the less interested I am in those shiny packages and the prizes they hold inside.  I am more interested in the faces that surround those packages.  I am more interested in the conversations that take place during my birthday meal and the memories that are made as we sip after dinner drinks and eat cake...or cheesecake.

This year as the ever popular question escaped the lips of my parents and spouse ("What do you want for your birthday?") I made a simple request....lets all get together.  And so the night of my birthday rolled around and nestled at their oval table, I looked at the faces of my mother and father, sister and brother-in-law, and my little family.  And as it came time to blow out the candles and make a wish, I realized that I had my wish.  I had everything I wanted right there, surrounding the table, gathered in my parents dining room.

With aging comes the occasional backache and the ever growing collection of grey hair, but I'll take it.  I will gratefully accept another year lived with this group.  I'll happily spend another 365 days going through this life, accepting the grey hair and the extra smile lines that appear on my face.  I'll accept aging to a number that make my children think, "man, that's old."  I'll accept the shiny gifts that still show up on my birthday and I admit they do still excite me.

Another year older, another year to explore this world, another year to spend with friends, another year to love on this family.  Another year is the best gift I can think of receiving.

 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

See-Ya Summer

Even though the calendar shown the summer months had slipped away, the weather was still warm, encouraging us to get out and soak up these dog days of summer.

The weekend explorers
Excitement ran high as Friday evening rolled around and we loaded up the camper with s'mores, glow sticks, and outdoor clothes.  We headed a few hours down the interstate to land that Scott and his brother had grown up on.

Happiness is fishing with your Papaw 
Scott's dad, my parents, and the owner of the property met us there for a weekend of fishing and fun.  We spent mornings sipping coffee by the pond, afternoons hiking and 4-wheeling, and evenings cooking under the stars.  The kids got to spend time with family, run through fields until their legs couldn't go another step, and ride 4-wheelers until windblown hair and wind burnt cheeks were worn with pride.   Every time I mention taking the kids to DisneyLand, Scott reminds me how excited and happy the kids are doing something as simple as camping, and it is substantially cheaper than taking them to Disney.

Quit looking at me Swan!
The following weekend it was almost time for my sister to close up her pool.  We had one last summer hurrah in the form of a cook-out and pool party.  We were all happy to meet the newest member of her family...Swanie!!

Daddy and his little fish
The kids and adults all enjoyed taking a ride on the bird and as the warmth of the sun started to set we hopped in the hot tub to warm our skin.   We grilled burgers and snacked on sides.  The kids grew sleepy and wet swimsuits were shed and babies were bundled up.  The fire pit came to life and before to much longer we hauled sleeping babies and empty casserole dishes to the car.  Another fun summer's end activity had came and gone.

Happiness
Holiday World is the one theme park that we have taken the kids to every summer.  As the kids are getting bigger, more rides are available for them to ride and it is so nice having an excellent park so close to our home.
Going round-and-round
Scott isn't a huge fan of putting his life in the hands of theme park rides, but he was a trooper and when his little boy asked him to ride the roller coaster with him, he gritted his teeth and got in line. Lila was a little frustrated she wasn't tall enough for all the rides her brother is, but was easily distracted by cotton candy and a re-fill of Hi-C punch.
Those summer nights
And with that we closed the book on the summer of 2016.  We have tan lines to show for our hours in the sun and broken flip flops that beg to go into retirement.  We'll move our swimsuits and beach towels to a different drawer and pull out boot socks and scarves. We'll trade in jars that held lightning bugs for bags that will collect colored leaves.  The season of fall is a blank page that we are ready to fill with adventure.    



    



  

Friday, September 9, 2016

Tick-Tock

If you don't write a post about your children turning another year older, does it really happen?

Just like last year, at least they know what they like
Yes, yes it does.  Not only do I have a 3 and 5 year old, but they have been for the past 2 months!


Both kids wanted the same party theme as last year, that made decoration preparation super easy!  Donut Bank provided the delicious cake again and we invited our closest family and friends.  We had rented a couple inflatables for the kids to play on, but due to a massive storm that was supposed to hit our area on party day, the inflatable company cancelled our rental *insert sad face here.*  I was a little nervous the kids would get bored...I was proven wrong as they found plenty of entertainment in silly string, water balloons, swings, and chasing one another.  


The worst part of the storm missed us completely and a little rain didn't stop the kids from running about while the adults kept dry under the tent.  After delicious food and cake, the kids excitedly opened gifts and looked at cards.  Lila wasn't sure what to think of so many people being at our normally very quiet and peaceful farm.  She spent a good portion of the time on the safety of Nana's lap or hiding behind Scott and I.  Paisley was so happy to have his friends and cousin Cam there to get loud and rambunctious with.  

The guests started departing and the kids were ready to play with their new toys.  Scott and I are always so grateful for the family and friends that spend a few hours of their Saturday with us to celebrate our babies.  Seeing our kids so happy with the party is exactly what birthday parties are about.
Silly string war
With the kids turning 4 and 6 next year...I wonder if they'll switch the theme or stick with the old favorite...One thing for sure, I'll have plenty of silly string and water balloons on hand!