{7 Quick Takes} Bison, bears, and bathrooms in Yellowstone

A couple of days behind on this one, but better late than never right?  Linking up with the lovely Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum and the gang…

ONE

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    Even if they are just walking through the parking lot, it is still never a good idea to pet a bison.

Last weekend we took advantage of the post-Labor Day crowds and took the family to Yellowstone National Park to camp.  We are so lucky to live a short drive away from the park, so weekend mini-vacations there are easy.  We have friends who are storing an RV trailer in our yard that they are graciously allowing us to use, and we took that when we went.  Otherwise we would have had to bring tents to augment our itsy-bitsy slide-in pickup camper.  And no offense to tent-campers out there, but I am not brave enough to risk sleeping in a tent with four kids who smell like hot dogs and marshmallows  in Bear Country.

TWO

Did you know that in Yellowstone, there is this lake that straddles the Continental Divide?  Its significance is that one side of the lake drains into the Pacific Ocean and the other side into the Gulf of Mexico.  And if your son just happens to surprise you by suddenly urinating into it (which I am sure is totally legal in a national park…)his pee will likely travel both of those directions as well.  Keep an eye out for those “teachable moments”.

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This location holds a new meaning for us.

THREE

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2016 may be the year Old Faithful finally becomes female.

“Why is it called a “Guy”ser?  Where are the “girl”sers?” – Bellie gets feminist at Old Faithful.  Maybe Hillary will change that if she gets elected.

FOUR

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Looking up from the lobby fireplace.

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I love how they’ve incorporated natural logs everywhere

I love, love, love Old Faithful Inn.  Every time we go to Old Faithful, I drag the family in here to see the awesome log everything in this awesome old hotel.  I love going into the lobby and just looking up the several stories to the roof.  And that fireplace is just fantastic!  We stayed there once, and I thought I was in heaven.  It is just a fantastic piece of history and one of the biggest log cabins in the world.  We watched Old Faithful erupt for a second time from the front balcony.  Low crowds, a huckleberry mocha, the soft sounds of my kiddos fighting over a muffin.  It was lovely.

FIVE

I am so proud to announce that my oldest three are now JUNIOR RANGERS.  They worked so hard.  How, you may ask, does a child become a Junior Ranger?  Well, it involves many hours of study (i.e. completing fun activities in a workbook), going on a nature patrol (i.e. walking from the visitor center to the boardwalk by Old Faithful) and listening to a ranger’s talk (we watched a bear spray demonstration).  The kids had a lot of fun doing this.  My favorite thing was Spike’s drawing in his workbook of animals one might see in Yellowstone.  He drew two turtles and a dinosaur.

SIX

We are the champions!  We did UNCLE TOM’S TRAIL.  With kids.  With no injuries.  And we’re not even that in shape.

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The way down is easier. Across from the falls of the Yellowstone.

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The gorgeous Yellowstone Canyon.

So, I had forgotten that there were SO MANY STEPS.  I really wanted to get close to the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River and I figured Uncle Tom’s Trail was the best walk to take.  I had forgotten that it has like one million and eighty-two steps down the canyon wall (those scared of heights may want to reconsider).  Which isn’t that bad going down, but is really, really a joy going back up!  The last time we had done the trail, Bellie was a baby in the backpack (carried by Hubby) and Junior was about three.  He ended up falling on the metal grates of the stairs at the very bottom, skinning his knee awfully badly and not wanting to walk anywhere anymore.  So our friend Eric offered to carry him all the way up those million-plus steps.  Our friendship with Eric was solidified and written into the annals of friends-going-above-and-beyond history.  I am pretty sure we still owe him big time for that.  And as far as Hubby goes, babies in hiking backpacks are not a piece of cake going up and down that staircase with, either.

However, this time all went well.  No injuries, no kids losing their motivation halfway back up again.  Heck, I am super-proud of myself for not losing motivation halfway back up again.  It was tempting to stop at one of the landings and say, “that’s it, I can go no further.  Bid fond adieu to my mother for me.”  but I kept going.

The view really is to die for.  Well, not literally (there are always some really unfortunate fatalities in Yellowstone Canyon every season), but it is just gorgeous.  If you are into self-punishment (or just enjoy the stair-climb machine at the gym) Uncle Tom’s Trail is for you!  It is worth it.

SEVEN

You gotta love the worldliness of Yellowstone.  There are people there from all over.  We were following a family from France on our way up the Stairway from Hell Uncle Tom’s Trail.  There were Germans in line next to me at the restrooms.  And a very nice group of Chinese tourists wanted to join us for lunch in our camper.  They were very intrigued that there were four children.  They also found blonde-haired Evvie positively enthralling.  And she’s not even that blonde!  (On an earlier trip, we were on a trail and there was a family ahead of us with a toddler who had platinum blonde hair.  A large group of Chinese tourists surrounded the family and started touching the child’s hair and gestured that they wanted to take pictures with her.  So they began taking selfies with the little girl as though she were one of the Jolie-Pitt kids.  We felt relieved that our dishwater-blonde kids were wearing hoodies.  It would have taken us forever to get done with that walk around the hot springs!

It’s a good learning experience to be able to explain to the kids how things are different in other countries and in other cultures.  For example, the Chinese tourists were interested in the size of our family because in their country they had a one-child policy until just recently.  So families of our size are not seen there.  And blonde hair is likewise rare.  Even explaining how toilets are different (prompted by the kids seeing the following image in the restrooms in Yellowstone:)

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If there are footprints on the seat, someone probably ignored this sign.

was a good opportunity to discuss that the U.S. is not the only nation on earth and the way it is done here is not necessarily the way it is done elsewhere.  Not good or bad, either way…just different.

 

Have a fabulous week!

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Asking for what you need and guilt-laden “me time”

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lovely image of Paris courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I have been struggling with two main emotions  challenges stumbling blocks lately.  And they are guilt and my struggle to be assertive.

I struggled with this last month when my in-laws were visiting.  I have been struggling with it this month while I try to plan my upcoming Europe trip, as well as take some much-needed “me time” in the form of my monthly Bunco get-together.  Hubby, understandably, is resistant to the times I spend away from the family.  It places extra burden on him and he really doesn’t get anything concrete in return.  (One could argue a happier, more rested wife, but we’ll get back to that in a minute…)

Things came to a head last week when I was discussing the aforesaid European trip with Hubby, complaining that there wouldn’t be enough time to comfortably see EVERYTHING, and he suddenly said, “I am not sympathetic; I am not supportive of this trip in the first place.”

Wow.

I was thrown for a loop.  Here I am, glibly planning this two week trip for next summer with friends and – heck- we’re almost ready to buy plane tickets, when Hubby suddenly brings to my attention the fact that, ahem, he is not supportive of this trip.  I admit I never really asked permission to take this trip with friends -a trip that I have been saving both my money and airline miles for.  I had, at first, mentioned to Hubby that we take a trip together, just the two of us.  I suggested Alaska, a place Hubby had always wanted to see.  I figured out a little itinerary (Denali! Kenai Fjords! A fishing charter!) and asked my sister if she would be willing to come out to Idaho to watch the kids while we were gone.  I had it all planned, and presented the plan to Hubby on his birthday.

The response was not as I had expected.  He replied that he didn’t want to spend that kind of money, that his idea of an Alaskan trip was much different than my idea of an Alaskan trip (think flying into a remote North Pole-ery location and rustic camping/fishing for a week) and he reminded me that we don’t travel well together.  (Which is true, we have very different traveling styles).  I told him that we had enough airline miles for both of us to fly to Alaska for no cost.  He said, “I’m sure you’d rather go to Europe with those miles.”  And I said, “Yes, actually I would.  Can I go to Europe with those miles if you really really don’t want to do Alaska with me?”  And he said yes.  So I really really thought he was completely OK with me going to Europe next summer.

After the conversation (the one where he said he wasn’t going to support my trip), I was wracked with horrendous amounts of Guilt.  Who was I, thinking that it was completely OK to ditch my young family for a couple of weeks, leaving my poor frazzled husband to deal with them?  Who was I to make my husband take vacation from work to watch the kiddos while I gallivanted around Europe while he was forced to stay home and be stressed out?   Why did I think I deserved that?  What if something happened to the kids while I was gone?  What if something happened to me?  How selfish was that?  How selfish was I?

While I kept trying to make sense of my emotions regarding this I tried to ascertain exactly why Hubby said he was non supportive.  What he had said was he wasn’t supportive of my trip.  What I heard is that he wasn’t supportive of me.  When I asked him to clarify, he said he thought the expense of travel was too great and that he didn’t believe I would be able to save enough money beforehand to finance my trip.  He also was unhappy about having to take work off, using up valuable vacation time that he would rather use for….um, vacation.  He also was worried for my safety, in light of the terrorism that seems to run rampant in Europe these days.  Additionally, and perhaps a little “selfishly” on his part, he was jealous.  When had he gotten to take a two-week trip with his friends?  I reminded him of the cool locations he had traveled to for work (Sweden, for example).  Also, I reminded him that I had tried to get us to plan a trip to Alaska, a #1 bucket-list item on his agenda, but he had declined.

Nevertheless, even after finding out the reasons for my husband’s reluctance to this trip, I still felt guilty.  I assured him I would try even harder to save money.  I would sell stuff I was no longer using on ebay.  I would pare down my spending.  I also assured him I would try to figure out childcare options for while I was gone, perhaps hiring someone or seeing if a family member would come out to provide babysitting.  I can’t do anything about terrorism or crime except to keep alert and stick with my traveling companions, and I told him I would be supportive of any travel scheme he came up with in the future – with or without me.  But the guilt remained.

As a wife and a mother, and especially as a woman of God, we are taught the intrinsic value of sacrifice.  We sacrifice for our spouse.  We sacrifice, especially, for our children.  Our sleep, our time, our energy, our bodies.  We are happy to do it because our families are worth it.  No one wants to be that mom or that wife who selfishly puts her wants ahead of her family’s needs.

So when, if ever, is it OK to say “Time Out!  I need to focus on my needs a little bit.  And they might look like ‘wants’ to you, but believe me, THEY ARE NEEDS!”  Like rest and rejuvenation.  Intellectual and cultural stimulation.  Exercise time.  Heck, a shower!

I guess, ultimately, I don’t want my kids to look back at me during their childhood as a woman who had no identity except that as their mother or their father’s wife.  I want them to see me as a dynamic, interesting, and joyful  woman who sacrificed for them but never forgot to take time out for herself.  I don’t want them to remember me as bitter and frustrated and failing to be a person in my own right.  I also don’t want them to remember me as a woman racked with guilt over following my dreams.

That said, I am forging ahead with the planning for my Europe trip.  I will try to come up with ways to make the time I am gone (and the expense) less painful for Hubby.  I am sure I will continue to struggle with feelings of guilt, but I need to focus on the actual goal which is to create enough joy that I come back to nurture my family even better.  One can’t feel guilty about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

{7 Quick Takes} Thoughts on Hamilton, “pretend school” and memory

Hello, gentle readers…hope your week has been lovely.  Linking up again with Kelly to let you in on what’s been happening around here…

ONE

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I am sort-of behind the times, but just recently discovered and immediately jumped on the Hamilton bandwagon.  I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on Amazon nearly non-stop for a few weeks now, and I love it.

I was a history major in college and I always thought, reading about Alexander Hamilton, “what a stud!” first, but then, “this guy was the epitome of the American Dream”.  He rose from illegitimacy and poverty to become one of the most influential of the Founders.  He had such a fascinating, nuanced life and that’s why this musical really excites me.

Plus, the hip-hop?  That’s pretty darn revolutionary for a Broadway show about an 18th Century Federalist.  It could have been a tired, classical story about an interesting guy, but Lin-Manuel Miranda does such great things with his writing that it makes the early days of America fresh and exciting.  And relatable.  Which is a complaint I think a lot of young people have about the study of history.

(Why do I  have to learn about this?  What does it matter to me?  These people in the past are nothing like me, they have nothing in common with me.)

Miranda took it a step further and cast people of all ethnic backgrounds as the central (historically Anglo-Saxon/white) characters.  And it is brilliant.  The story transcends race and gender and solidifies the fact that no matter our backgrounds or ethnicity, ALL AMERICANS have a right to the heritage of our nation.  And that is just fabulous.

Plus, the music is super-catchy.  If you haven’t, I encourage you to check out the soundtrack (even if you’re not a musical fan…this one might change your mind!).  If you’re waiting to see it on Broadway, it is probably going to be a long wait – it’s basically sold out into 2018!

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Alexander Hamilton (left) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (right) as Alexander Hamilton

TWO

The older two started school Aug 28th.  I had to laugh at Bellie (1st grade) when she came home after that first day.  It was an excited, breathless, stream of consciousness about eating lunch at school and riding the bus with her brother and seeing her friends and she loves her teacher and she got to help in the library and she used her new pencils and she loves her teacher did she tell me she loves her teacher?  And Junior (4th grade) came home and grunted “fine” when I asked him how his first day was.  Haha, the difference between boys and girls.  (Or 1st and 4th grade?)

THREE

I attempted to begin homeschooling my preschooler on Tuesday.  I had tried to get him excited about the prospect (We did not enroll him in “away from home” preschool this fall because A) at almost 4 he is showing a stubborn lack of interest in being potty-trained and B) I really don’t want to have to shuttle anyone back and forth to a 2-hour preschool when it takes me 1 hour round-trip  to get there.  This is my one year to be free from that!).  Anyhow, I told Spike that I was going to teach him at home.  He responded, “I get to go to pretend school?  Yay!”  Initially, I thought, that’s cool he calls it “pretend”, I know it is real, and it will be awesome.  Well, it turns out he really thought we were only going to “pretend” we were at school.  I barely got through the morning prayer and the pledge before he got sidetracked and started throwing a fit about playing with his Lego car.  I tried to lovingly refocus him, I attempted to move onto something I thought he would enjoy (coloring), I finally resorted to giving him a time-out.  He sat on the steps screaming, “I hate pretend school!  I don’t want to do pretend school any more!”  So I decided we would probably just take a break for the day.  I don’t want him completely hating it if I push it on him.  I vow to try it again next week.  I will keep trying for a bit but if it appears he is just not ready, perhaps he might not be.  I will keep you updated.

FOUR

The baby has some weird skin thing going on.  It looks like a rash or maybe psoriasis, is mostly on her chin and around her eye.  It looks very dry and red and patchy.  The only thing I can think of is it appeared around the time the kids were doing swimming lessons last month.  So perhaps a reaction to the chlorine or something?  It has been a couple of weeks since we’ve been swimming, though, so I don’t know what is going on.  Junior had some weird eczema around that age that eventually subsided, but this appears different.  I hate skin conditions in kids…one thing can look very much like another thing.  Something serious that needs treatment can appear just like something else that only needs to be washed with a gentle soap and moisturized.  It could be a reaction to some kind of detergent or it could be an allergy to some kind of food.  In that case, it can take months to figure it out while removing and adding stimuli to the child’s life.  Gaaah.  At least it doesn’t seem itchy or bothersome to Evvie.  She just looks somewhat ghastly.

FIVE

Our garden is overflowing and I couldn’t be more irritated.  I know that sounds totally awful, but it is true.  I love the idea of gardening.  I like having fresh herbs and lettuce to pick when I am making a salad or cooking and need just a little bit of parsley instead of running to the store.  But…but…even when you plant just one, little, teeny zucchini plant you somehow wind up with 5,634,592 zucchinis that you need to figure out what the heck to do with!  I have at least 3 friends who begrudgingly took one or two to make zucchini bread.  Hubby’s been cubing it and sautee-ing it with butter and Parmesan cheese (yummy actually, but not when you have it served for every meal for every day for a month!)

We have tomatoes and plums and really hard, not delicious pears strewn all over my counter.  The fruit is not so bad: the kids eat it constantly.  Unfortunately, those children still in diapers (I’m looking at you, Mr. I Hate Pretend School) tend to bless me with delightful pants to change after consuming all of that fiber.  Hubby was raised with the Depression-Era mindset (I am pretty sure he is actually a vampire who grew up in the 30’s) that you use EVERY LAST available piece of food for SOMETHING, no matter how ugly it is, how full of worms it may happen to be (yeah, our apples didn’t do so well this year), or how bad it tastes.  If it is not rotting or full of mold, you better dang well figure out some way to cook it, freeze it, or preserve it.  Of course, since Hubby is at work all day, this generally gets “intended” my way….and I honestly have tons of things I would rather be doing.  Hence the resentment over my bounteous garden.  I am blessed.

SIX

I have to go to the library today.  My kids love the library.  I love the library.  But I hate going with my kids to the library.

SEVEN

I am reading this fascinating (although a little technical) book: Permanent Present Tense: The Incredible Life of the Amnesic Patient, H.M. by Suzanne Corkin (2013).

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I became interested in this subject because a new nonfiction book about the same thing was recently published:

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My library hasn’t acquired this new book yet (Patient H.M. by Luke Dittrich, who is the grandson of the brain surgeon who operated on H.M.) but a search led me to the other one.

Permanent Present Tense tells the story of Henry Molaison, a 27-year-old epileptic who underwent an experimental surgery in 1953 to remove part of his brain in order to relieve his seizures.  It seemed to work somewhat, but tragically included the added side-effect of Henry never being able to create any long-term memories.  His life really was in “permanent present tense” as he forgot everything after about 30 seconds.

As a result, for the next half-century, Henry agreed to be studied by neurologists to discover the intricacies and nuances of the brain.

Fascinatingly, only Henry’s long-term memory of things after his surgery was affected.  He could remember things from before, and his intelligence and personality remained the same.

Henry passed away in 2008, before that, he was only referred to in scientific circles as “Patient H.M.”  He contributed greatly to our understanding of how the brain works, most importantly memory.

I have always been very fascinated with the brain and the history of how brain injuries and mental illness have been treated.  In the first part of the 20th Century, lobotomies were considered appropriate and acceptable treatment for a wide range of conditions, among them depression and schizophrenia.  They were used, with some success, on patients with epilepsy, but up until recently doctors were not sure precisely which areas of the brain were able to be removed or damaged to yield results without damaging other brain functions (such as memory).

I’m only about half-way through but am engrossed.  I feel devastated for Henry and his family to have to have enriched science and medicine through their loss, but it really did open up a whole knew era of understanding about the brain.  Alternately, the book calls into question the lengths we as a society are willing to experiment on human “guinea pigs”(drug trials, for example) to further our goals to find treatment for disease.

Oregon: Part Deux

Continuing with our exciting Oregon coast report…

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One of them was terrified by the waves, the other three were enraptured by the wet sand.

THE OCEAN

We reached the Pacific at the northern part of the state, near Seaside, and drove to Del Rey Beach.  We were able to drive right out onto the sand.  It was fairly overcast, but still warm enough (the kids said) to run into the surf fully clothed!?!?  I don’t know if 64 degrees F is my idea of swimming weather, but they had great fun.  Just being able to play in the sand was a fabulous experience for them.

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Sand Angels are JUST like snow angels, just a little bit grittier.

Evvie HATED the waves!  She wouldn’t let me put her down for about an hour.  And then when I did, she just ran around screaming.  Eventually, though, she figured out that sand is kind-of fun to play with and she got in on the action, too.

It was fun to see the little jellyfish washed up by the waves.  They looked just like little bubbles on the sand.  We also saw a few different types of crabs, and different species of seagulls (which I didn’t realize existed – I thought they were all alike).

FORT STEVENS STATE PARK

We camped here two nights.  It was a super-nice campground with awesome bike trails that were easy for kids.  The first night we went to see the Peter Iredale shipwreck that was nearby.  We had watched the movie Goonies just before leaving on our trip, so the kids were really curious about where the pirate ship was with all the gold.  And also a little nervous about those sneaky bad guys and the skeletons.

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At the beach with the Peter Iredale.  No pirates in sight!

ASTORIA

What a gorgeous town!  I wish we could have spent more time there, but we really only had time to visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum.  I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibits, which were all about the coast’s relationship with fishing and shipping and exploration.  They also had a great exhibit for the kids about the Coast Guard and how they rescue people.  The kids got to climb in the rescue rafts and even try on a survival suit which would keep you warm and toasty if you were to spend a long time in frigid water.

We drove by the Old Jail that features in the opening scenes of Goonies.  It is now the Oregon Film Museum.  I hope that next time we’ll have time to stop and visit!

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Loved the rainforest!  The ferns were my favorites.

ECOLA STATE PARK AND VIEW OF HAYSTACK ROCK

We finally found a place to park with our little trailer near the overlook for Cannon Beach.  We had heard the tide pools down at Indian Beach in Ecola State Park were pretty good, so we thought a short hike down to the beach would be an OK proposition.  (Apparently the parking lot down at Indian Beach was full).  So we started pushing our stroller up the trail until we realized that the trail followed a narrow cliff-drop-off on one side.  Our stroller was too big and I didn’t relish the idea of the kids (or me) falling down the precipice to the rocky shore cliffs.  So we turned around.  We would look for tide pools elsewhere.  The walk up until that point was really pretty.  And the view of Haystack rock was gorgeous from the picnic area.

TILLAMOOK CHEESE FACTORY

This was a super-fun stop a few miles down the coast.  We get Tillamook dairy products in Idaho, and it was really fun to see where they make and package them for distribution!

While there, we got ice cream (Huckleberry is my favorite flavor!) and did a free self-guided tour of their cheese plant.  We all found it really interesting.

This video can give you a little glimpse of what we learned.

SEA LION CAVES Florence, OR

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The sea lions were cool, the kids enjoyed the cave…a little spendy, but worth it for us.

HECETA HEAD LIGHTHOUSE

I think this was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.  After we went to visit the Sea Lion caves in the morning, we drove a short way north to the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint.

We just spent the whole afternoon there, had a picnic, and then the kids played in the sand and we wandered in the surf, looking in the tide pools.  Very relaxing!

Well, it took me long enough to finish this post!  Only a few months later…ha!