Thursday, July 31, 2014

An astute observation

In Eric's truck there is an actual outlet to plug things in (I know, where were all these great gadgets when we were young?  Remember pushing in the cigarette lighter and then watching it glow?  That was our highlight of being in a vehicle.)  Anyway, we were all riding in the truck the other day and Joey happened to be sitting up front between me and Eric.  He was looking at (pushing) every button on the dash.  Then he stops, looks at something for a few quiet seconds, and asks me, dead serious, "Mom, is he sad?"  To what was he referring?......poor sad Mr. Outlet.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Into the Wild

It has certainly been a jam-packed summer so why stop now?  Our next adventure was to head out to Yellowstone.  We took this trip 2 years ago and the kids (well, Ty and Jake) have been dying to go back.  So for our big family trip we did indeed go back.  On our way up we stopped at Jackson Hole and walked a bit downtown and had lunch.  The kids even met Albert Einstein!
Of course we had to stop at the antler arches.  Tyler is trying to convince me to let him build one in his room.  Uhhhh, right.  They were pretty cool though....for Jackson.  Eric was a champ driving the truck hauling his dad's HUGE trailer house through the "quaint" streets of downtown.  "Quaint streets" and "trailer house rig" are two phrases that don't go together well.  But Eric was awesome.  If I had been driving...well, that's a different story.
The drive took much longer than expected.  We had to avoid some construction so went the long way.  But it did take us through Teton Pass which was beautiful.  Eric's country boy influence must be rubbing off on me because I actually told him that if I had an awesome ranch up there I could live there.  But those ranches are no doubt millions of dollars---otherwise he'd have pulled right into a realtor office and taken me up on my word.  By the end of the drive the kids were starting to go a little stir crazy.
The kids definitely did their share of whining, arguing, complaining, nit-picking, etc.  Sometimes I think they lay up at nights thinking about different things to argue about.  "You're breathing too loud!"  "You're hogging the window!"  "You're foot touched my leg!"  "Stop touching me!"  "You're looking at me!"  And every time they start in on it they always begin with, "MMMOOOOOMMMMM!  He's/she's  _________(fill in any kind of ridiculous complaint here)."  I kept my cool (mostly) and we finally made it.   Hallelujah!

Our first stop that day was Fishing Bridge, suitable since that's where we were camped.  Look at all the fish!  Actually the entire trip we saw NO fish at FISHING BRIDGE!  A few small little guppy fish is all.  Maybe they should change the name?
Eric and Joey trying to see some fish...none to be found.
We got up early (early early--5:00 early) the next day.  Got ready, had breakfast and set out on a wild animal hunt (sightseeing hunt, that is).   It was early but is was great because there was hardly anyone around.  We saw most of the cool stuff in Hayden Valley, but there were a lot of other places too.  I didn't really take many pictures of animals since I prefer pictures we are in.  But to sum up, we saw black bears, grizzly bear (who wasn't too far off and he walked to the river and swam across), several wolves (including a mom, dad and pup that crossed the street almost right in front of us), several elk with huge antlers, many osprey (one who we watched search out the river then dive in and catch a fish right next to us during a bison traffic jam), a few coyote (one eating a dead bison), a bald eagle, two moose eating in a river not 30 feet away, deer, and enough bison to last me a lifetime.  We pretty much saw everything except a big horn sheep.  I was thrilled because the kids would have been so disappointed if they hadn't seen most of the animals.  They were even willing to get up early with no complaints!
Eric scoping out the grizzly...
More and more and more bison!  We were getting quite tired of them.  They seem to be quite stubborn and walk in the road so no one can get by.  Then you see the very stupid people walking up to them to get a "close-up".  Ugh.  Sometimes you wish they would get gored just to teach them a lesson!  We kept a safe distance.
We also spent time seeing the beautiful sights of nature there.  The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is always a great place.

We went to the Mud Volcanoes and boy was it stinky!  There are a lot of stinky places in Yellowstone!
We went for a short hike to Clear Lake.  It was only just less than a mile in but you'd have thought it was 10 miles based on the fact that it took us an hour to get there.  Maggie insisted on carrying the backpack...that lasted about 3 minutes.  But at least I got a cute shot!
I was nervous about bears so I made us all stay together.  We had some bear spray, and my kids were loud enough to scare off even the most ferocious of grizzlies.  We didn't have any encounters, even though we were hiking in the same spot we saw a black bear the day before.
Just a pic of me and Eric to prove we actually were there--there aren't many pics with us in them.  I don't look to glamorous, but hey, I was camping!
We did our fair share of driving while in the park.  Eric kept track and from the time we entered the Yellowstone gate to the time we left we drove over 500 miles!  Just inside the park!  So the kids at times would get crazy.  Especially if we happened to see an animal--oh boy!  Chaos ensued as to who would get the window, the binoculars, should we get out or not?  Oh boy.
We went to see Old Faithful early one morning.  There was hardly anyone else there.  I highly recommend getting up early for the busy spots.  Much more enjoyable.  We happened to arrive only 15 minutes before Old Faithful erupted so it was perfect.  We explored the lodge too.
One of my favorite places to go is Midway Geyser Basin.  The colors and pools are awesome there.  You can't see too well in this pic, but the hot water from above has cut paths in the rocks and is flowing down into the river.  Around the hot water it is bright orange.

We also walked around Norris Geyser Basin.  Really cool stuff there too.  I can't imagine what the first explorers must have thought when they found this place.  Mind blowing stuff!

Here's a bison that caused us some grief.  He just took his sweet time meandering down the road between the lanes.  It took us a while to get past him.  So we decided to at least get a pic from the car--note, this is NOT zoomed in.
Our last full day there we hiked out to Slough Creek.  It was about 2 miles in and 2 miles out.  I was thinking after the Clear Creek hike that we'd never make it, but the kids were actually pretty good.  Tyler is like a pack mule.  Eric has told me before that when he goes hunting/hiking with Tyler that Ty just goes and goes and never complains or anything.  I saw it first hand!  I had to carry Joey on my back most of the time, so Tyler ended up carrying the big backpack which had our water, picnic and supplies in it.  It was pretty heavy.  Then he was also carrying his fishing pole.  Man, he walked out in front and led the way the whole time.  Didn't make a peep of complaint.  Awesome!  Eric called him a Scout Master's dream.  For sure.  When we got out to the Slough Creek meadow Eric and Tyler went fly fishing for a few hours while me and the other kids stayed in the meadow.  Apparently there are quite a few bears up there, but once again my loud kids took care of that.  But don't worry--I had my bear spray on me!

After our little picnic the kids found a toad.  Can they catch it?
Yes!  This is their victory walk back to show me the toad.

Jake ended up catching another one and wanted to keep them both, but I figure if you can't even take a rock from Yellowstone you certainly can't keep a toad!  So he set it free.
The kids enjoyed having the trailer house because they were able to watch movies before bed.  Here they are bunked up for the night.
We also visited the West Thumb geyser/hot pots.  Joey was making me so nervous running around on the boardwalks.   We tried our best to contain him but it was a battle!  We ran into a ranger who was measuring the temperature of the pools.  The most beautiful one ("Black Pool"--because it used to be black colored but over time has gotten hotter and killed all the organisms in it so now it is a deep crystal clear blue) measured over 200 degrees!  She said it would take less than a second of touching that water to get 3rd degree burns.  I asked about a guys I heard of years ago who jumped into a hot pot to save his dog who jumped in (they both died) and she told us the story, where it happened and recommended the book "Death in Yellowstone."  We, being morbid I suppose, bought it and read a lot on the drive home--amazing!  I couldn't believe how stupid some people are!  A lot of people get killed in the hot pots.  It was quite surprising.  But the book has stories on bear deaths, poisonous plants, falls, etc.  It's actually very interesting!

This next shot is Black Pool that I mentioned earlier--don't you just want to jump in?  Seriously, it looks so blue and clear and warm (heck yeah it's warm!).
Out trip was a blast.  The boys want to go back next year!  Who knows, maybe we will!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Girl's Trip!

Last year, Maggie and I decided to take a girl's trip up to Seattle to visit my sister Carrie and her family.  We had so much fun we decided to do it again this year.  We flew up there a few weeks ago--Maggie certainly felt special taking a trip with mom, leaving those silly boys at home.  She loved every minute, starting with the airport--moving sidewalk awesomeness.  We made it there despite a bumpy ride on the flight and began our few days of fun.  Maggie got to see two of her cousins--ones she could play with an boss around!  Boy did she love that.  Seattle is a great city--beautiful weather while I was there and tons of great food.  We went out to eat a lot...a LOT...but that's what vacations are for!  

We also went out to Snoqualmie Falls and did a short hike to see the waterfall up close.  The hike was like a cool nature walk.  The girls had fun trying berries and playing on trees.

 After that we went to a place called Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive In.  Best rootbeer ever.  We ordered some shakes and, what else?  Rootbeer floats!  Look at the size of Maggie's float!  I decided to help her out finishing it, just to be nice.  Although if I remember, we couldn't finish it even between the 2 of us!
 We also went to a fun beach area.  There was a park there too.  The beach part was rocky and it was too cold to swim, but boy did we have fun finding cool rocks and shells!  We even discovered that when you turn over a big rock there would be tons of little tiny crabs that would scatter all over.  Maggie, Sam and Kate filled the air with squeals of delight every time!
I wish I would have taken more pictures, but alas I didn't.  But it was a great trip.  Relaxing and wonderful to spend time with my sister and her fam.  I have to give a shout out to poor Becky who sat and watched the girls most nights so Carrie and I could go out just the 2 of us!  I think this could be the start of a girl's trip tradition!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Busy Busy Busy Summer!

I don't know WHAT has happened, some kind of time warp, because summer is half over!  Whaaaaa???? I remember when I was young that "old" people would always talk about how time moves so fast.  I never agreed--waiting for a trip to Tahoe or wherever seemed like it took F.O.R.E.V.E.R!!!  Minutes were like hours, days were like weeks.  Well, I guess I must really be old now, because for sure time is passing more quickly.  No way is Tyler almost 11????  He's practically moving out of the house.  So the gaps in my blog are not due to my negligence, it is just due to some cosmic forces making the earth rotate faster, passing time more quickly.  It cannot be that I am getting older.

Father's Day was great, we made dad a fun picture.

 Eric's sister, Hillary, came out for a visit for a couple weeks.  It was so fun.  We went to see the Parade of Homes, went out to eat, spent a lot of time together with all the cousins, etc.  One day we went up to Olympic Park in Park City.  They have a ton of fun stuff to do there--ziplines, ropes courses, alpine slide, etc.  They had different sizes of ropes courses.  The "small" one (only 15-20 feet off the ground) was enough for me.  Maggie did it and did awesome!  No fear, she attacked that thing.

 Tyler and Jacob did awesome too.  They had a blast doing it.  After this one we tried one of the 2 bigger ones.  Much higher and much more difficult--that wasn't a hit with me or the boys.  Of course Eric then decided to be the stud he is and did the HIGH HIGH one.  Nailed it.  But I don't have any pics of that, unfortunately.  I know lots of the other family member there took pics so send them to me!

 Here is a shot of all the Swenson cousins together....we make quite the nice little pyramid, huh?  Of course my little munchkins make up the sides!
 It was so fun with the cousins.

A few days ago Jacob got BAPTIZED!!!!  Hooray!  It was such a special day.  He was a little nervous, which was so cute.

 Is he a handsome kid or what?  And the best part is he is such a sweetie.  I guess he is making up for his years of screaming as a baby (yes, YEARS of screaming).  I almost sold him to the gypsies many times.  But he has grown into an awesome kid (I won't call him a young man because that would be admitting he's growing up--not allowed!).  Jacob is a boys boy, carries around jars of bugs, collects old bullet casings he finds out hiking, loves soccer, loves swimming, loves to play with his friends.  Jacob is always making cute things for other people.  He makes rubber band bracelets for me and grandma, he puts together little envelopes with candy and sweet notes in them and leaves them on my bed or in my bathroom.  He's just a fun kid to be around.  We love him so much and we are so proud of him.
 The baptism was amazing.  Tyler gave the talk on baptism and wrote it all by himself.  He did so good--great content, he made eye contact and talked slow.  Then my kids all sand "I am a Child of God" taking turns doing the verses as solos.  Oh my, it was a moment I wish I could capture in a jar and keep forever.  One of those moments where your heart just swells up inside of you and you think you could burst.  It was such a neat and special day.

Summer has been moving along in between all our many activities...lemonade stands for one!
 My mom is out for Jacob's baptism and we went on a ride up Current Creek.  It was BEAUTIFUL and my mom even enjoyed it!  I wasn't sure if she would.  We even got her to shoot our pistol--she's the next Annie Oakley.  We will turn that city slicker into an outdoors women yet.

In between all this fun stuff we've crammed more fun stuff.  Sprinklers, going to the pool, a girl's trip to Seattle,  and just tons of play time!  Looking forward to the second half--a trip to Yellowstone and Grandma Calder's are in store!  Stay tuned for more.