Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Our Epic Vacation: Day 4

EV Day 4
The view from our cute little cabin
At the close of Day 3, we found ourselves in a cute little cabin in Custer State Park, South Dakota.  I certainly appreciated the sort-of mattress I got to sleep on.  It was ever so much better than rocks and dirt, despite my air mattress.  Plus, we didn't even have to set up a tent!

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Of course, breaking camp was still a pretty big ordeal the morning of Day 4.  Packing the car up every morning was always an exciting prospect.  All of our backpacks and sleeping bags and American Girl Dolls (sigh) and books and stuff.  I would hardly call our camping trip "roughing it."  And, also--did I tell you that the Maestro insisted on bringing his golf clubs ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY?

I was tickled to find a little comic on the back of our atlas (which I would post here, except the cover got destroyed on the epic vacation and it has since been trashed) depicting a man packing up the back of the minivan for vacation.  He has fit his golf clubs in, but left two or three suitcases out, and the wife is fuming mad.  Apparently Joel is not the first man in the history of the world to want to take his golf clubs on a road trip.

So, anyway, those golf clubs and all of our other crap made packing up fun.  End digression.

We drove out of Custer and headed west to Wyoming, where things began to finally look more Western.  More like our beloved Utah, but not quite.

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We made a small little detour to go get the girls' passports stamped at Devil's Tower.  And see it, of course.  It was really cool to see in real life, even if we didn't actually have any close encounters with the third kind.  How very disappointing.

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It was actually really fascinating to be there, and we spent a lot more time than originally planned. All in the name of education, though, right?

And taking FOREVER to get to our intended destination: Yellowstone.

I will admit that we didn't realize just how slow going it is to drive through Wyoming and all of the twisty-turny mountain roads that lead to Cody and the East Entrance of Yellowstone.  Plus we stayed longer than we should at lunch (a Hardee's in middle-of-nowhere Wyoming) and we stopped along the way to see a few different landmarks.

Like this one--Pyramid Peak--near Greybull, Wyoming.

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I think Chloe and Sophia were too busy watching McKenna (the new American Girl movie) at this point to bother getting out and looking at a rock.

After a quick pit-stop in Cody for our dinner/breakfast food supply, we finally arrived in Yellowstone--about 5 hours later than we had planned.  I won't lie, either.  We were not in very good moods at this point.

EV Day 4 Yellowstone

A lone bison met us near the entrance, and I think he was a different variety of buffalo than the ones we had seen the night before in Custer.  Either way, I certainly wouldn't want any run-ins with him!

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And who knew how huge Yellowstone is?  I mean, I knew.  I just didn't know.  We drove past Yellowstone Lake (beautiful) and about 45 minutes after we entered the park, we finally arrived at our campsite.  We quickly set up our tent and went to find somewhere to eat near Old Faithful.

Too bad for us, everything was already closed once we drove that distance.  But, on our way there, the cars were all stopped and we got to see some elk watering themselves down in a ravine just off the road. So that was cool.

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We also got to watch Old Faithful erupt in the dark, and that was cool, too.  After that, we drove back to our campsite and crashed.  (Don't worry, our tummies weren't totally empty--we snacked on gorilla bars for dinner.)(Yes, I meant to say gorilla--that's what Sophia calls them and it has kind of caught on with the rest of us.)

***End of Day 4***

States visited:

South Dakota

Hours driven:


Monday, September 24, 2012

How I Know I Married a Musician: Part 7

We love BYU football around our house.  Unfortunately for us, along with all other BYU football fans, the Cougars have not played so well the last few games.  The last game, in particular, was lost due to what many people feel was a major error on the part of the head coach.

Joel was passionately reading an opinion piece about the game to me the next morning and here is what I heard:

Blah blah blah two-point conversion blah blah blah excellent defense blah blah blah untrusted kicker blah blah which is exactly why Mendelssohn* should not have blah blah blah...

*Psst...if you're not familiar with BYU football, the head coach's name is Mendenhall.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Book of Jer3miah

This is not technically a book review, but since the series is called "The BOOK of Jeremiah" I'm going to just call it that anyway.  Besides, it's extremely unlikely that I will ever review a DVD again, so why go to the trouble to create a new category?

Just before we left on the Epic Vacation, my blogging friend Jana emailed me to see if I would be willing to review a DVD of a web series.  I was completely intrigued by her description of the show, and told her that I would definitely do it.  And then I went on the longest vacation in the world and forgot all about it.  So I was pleasantly surprised when, a couple weeks ago, a package containing two copies (one for me and one for you) of The Book of Jeremiah arrived on my doorstep.

It took a few days before the Maestro and I were able to sit down and start watching it, but when we did we were totally hooked.  This web series was a project created by a film class at Brigham Young University under the direction of Jana's husband, Jeff.  It was made with the low budget you'd expect from such a project, and yet it certainly doesn't seem like it.  It is very well done, with good acting, good cinematography, and, most importantly, a compelling plot.

Now, I like the LDS films that are out there.  I remember going to see The Singles Ward in the movie theatre while 8 months pregnant and laughing so hard I had to leave the movie.  Twice.  I can laugh at our religious culture the way these movies do.  But after about 421 more movies just like The Singles Ward (including Singles Ward 2) I got really tired of that genre of movies, and while there were a few serious ones out there, I would have liked to see something that really took who we are and what we believe and made it into something significant, but not absurd or overly melodramatic.  The Book of Jeremiah most definitely achieved that, which is why Joel and I enjoyed it so much.

It's a series of 20 episodes, each lasting anywhere from 2-15 minutes.  We did not want to stop watching and stayed up until nearly 2 am one night trying to get through it, but still had to finish up the next night because we couldn't keep our eyes open any longer.  The show addresses some important LDS themes like the battle between good and evil, prayer, repentance, scriptures, forgiveness, truth-seeking, personal revelation, obedience, and trust, but does it in a way that doesn't seem overly corny or preachy.

Gideon Burton (married to the amazing Kazzy) wrote an interesting blog in which he explored the themes of the series in depth:

"Jeremiah must resolve his aching need for an orienting identity. Ironically, that is what Mormonism is all about. Latter-day Saints claim an eternal identity; however, the media productions of Mormonism are seldom about feeling all the more lost and endangered for having a spiritual and eternal identity. This series sits on the edge of Mormonism, taking its ideas of eternal progression and individual mission so seriously that the stakes are realized in human terms, with evil as present and potent a reality as God."
I do have one copy to give away to one of you lucky readers, but I really want the rest of you to see it, too.  The series is now available on DVD at Deseret Book and Amazon, and I think every one of you should buy it.  If you're not as sure of that as I am, go watch the trailer first.

If you'd like a chance to win the DVD, just leave a comment on this post.  I hope you win!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Our Epic Vacation: Day 3

Dear Mom and the seven other people who still read my blog,

I realize that at the rate I am managing to get these vacation posts up, it will take me a year or so to do the whole thing.  I also realize that I usually lose my steam with vacation posts because I think it makes my blog super boring to do vacation recaps all the time.  I'm trying to change that this time, and so I apologize for both the lateness and the boringness.  I think maybe I'm starting to settle into the semester, but I'm pretty busy and I have about 42 million vacation photos to slog through.  With all of that said, here is Day 3 (only Day 3!) and there are a lot of photos.  I had double the amount of good ones, and each one I deleted took a little piece of my heart with it.  But I also didn't want to keep splitting days up into more than one post, so I hope you like all the pictures and I hope it doesn't slow your computer down too much!



The end of Day 2 found us calmly setting up camp at Badlands National Park in South Dakota.  The morning of Day 3 found us not wanting to get up quite as early as we needed to, but we couldn't waste the day away on something so frivolous as sleep!

Everyone was feeling a little sick (maybe it was the bison meat from the night before!), but after a breakfast of scrambled eggs and fruit we felt well enough to break camp and drive to the Badlands Visitor Center.

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It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and Badlands is a really cool place, so we were excited to do a little bit of hiking and exploring.

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We were not, however, excited about the prospect of seeing rattlesnakes. Thankfully, we never did!

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We started off to "hike" the scenic loop and see what we could see.

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The Badlands are very fossil rich, so Joel had a great time looking for fossils with the girls, and not surprisingly, the girls loved it, too.

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Don't I have the cutest family?

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We came upon a hill? a formation? a badland? that you could climb, and the girls were in heaven. Literally! Look how beautiful that sky is! It was also terribly hot, but they thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

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A bit later in the "hike" we came upon a rock with an amazing view of the park. Some ladies came by and offered to take our picture, and then I took theirs with seven different cameras. It turns out that they were all in a nursing program together in college 40 years ago and they still get together once a year and go somewhere cool. Isn't that neat? Hey college friends reading this--let's totally do that, okay?

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I guess it was windy, because I don't have any other explanation for Chloe's shirt. And yes, I still have a lot more pictures. We might be halfway through now.

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More climbing, and then we perused the visitor's center for a while. We got to watch the staff paleontologist work on some bones and get our stamps in our National Parks Passports and buy souvenirs and all that jazz. Then we were off for our next adventure.

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On our way out of the park we saw this bighorn sheep. Or is it a ram? An animal specialist I am not, but whatever it was, it was pretty cool and right next to my car window.

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And then we drove for a while on I-90. And if you've ever been on I-90 in South Dakota, then you know about the 237,842 signs for Wall Drug. Actually, I don't know how many there were because Joel and I gave up counting after about 30. And we started in the middle of the state!

EV Wall drug
o, because of all the subliminal messages, and because our friends told us it was fun, we stopped at Wall Drug for lunch. Wall Drug has a pretty cool story behind it, and if you don't know what it is, you should look it up, because this post is already way too long. We had fun there, but I took ZERO pictures. We ate homemade donuts and ate ice cream and drank (free!) ice water and did a bunch of the other fun things they had there, too.

And then it was on the road again.

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This time we were headed for Mount Rushmore. The girls were so excited to see it in real life. We actually had studied a bit about how it was made before we left on vacation, and they were fascinated. I was very excited, too. And it was definitely worth it.

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There is definitely a feeling of reverence there, and we sat and contemplated it for a long while before we got up and did the little hike called the Presidential View Loop which also leads to the sculptor's studio where we could learn more about how the sculptures were made.

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The Presidential View Loop was pretty cool, because it gave you unique views of each president, like this one of George Washington which I took from a little cave with a small opening in it. Unfortunately, this was when my camera battery died, so it's the last good picture I have of Day 2. The rest are Instagrammed from my phone. But yay for phones, right?

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Here I am being a little less than noble with all of that nobility behind me.

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And here is a cool shot that Sophia took with my phone.

After we finished hiking and seeing the sculptor's studio, we had to check out the gift shops and visitor's centers to get our passports all stamped. And then we were off again, this time to Custer State Park where we would not have to sleep in a tent because we had rented a cabin for the night!

As we drove into Custer, all the cars were stopped. If you are a National/State Park frequenter, then you know what this means: wildlife.

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This herd of bison was right next to my car window and I was so disappointed that my camera had died (and also so happy we were in a cabin with electricity so I could charge it overnight!) because I didn't get as great of pictures with my phone. But, it was an awesome sight. There were mothers and babies and bulls and more bulls. Amazing.

We settled into our cabin, showered (hurray for that!), and fell into bed exhausted. Well, all except Chloe and Joel who stayed up for another hour playing battleship.

***End of Day 3***

States visited:

South Dakota

Hours Driven:


Monday, September 10, 2012

And, we're off!

I had big plans to post Day 3 of our Epic Vacation today.

Too many photos to edit, too much work to do, too little time.

I've been up and running since 5:30 this morning, and now that it's 10, I'm off to bed.  Only to get up tomorrow and do it all over again, plus teach for six hours.

I'm not complaining!  It is just amazing to me how busy life can be when all of your children are in school.  I once dreamt of a perfectly clean house and time to do whatever I wanted.


So the Epic Vacation photos will have to wait a few days while I keep my shoulder to the wheel.

Happy Monday!

(I hope it was less crazy than mine.)

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Goodbye Summer, Hello School

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Today was the first day of school, and we did not have an auspicious beginning.  I'm not so sure I was ready to let summer go...

Our last real day of summer was spent at the beach.  The girls swam and swam, built sandcastles, and ran with Puccini.  Joel swam a bit and relaxed, and I read the entire time while simultaneously getting sunburned.  It was pretty glorious.

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Puccini swam, too, but she's still not fond of it.  Mostly she just goes in because she's worried about us.  She freaked out the one time I got into the water.  Funny.  She also lost her collar on one of those swims, so if you're ever on Lake Superior and you see a pink dog collar washed ashore with her name tag on it, you'll know why.

Anyway, this morning was not very relaxing in comparison with the beach!  And we didn't get off to a very good start since I managed to turn off my alarm and nobody's quite used to waking up at 6:00 am yet.  I blame the Maestro, who was at his office last night until well past 1:00, and I had a hard time falling asleep because he wasn't here.

So we were a little rushed, but we managed to get out of the house in time.  (Also, we're not used to the first day being a full day!  It's usually a half, beginning at noon.) But, thanks to the hurry, these are pretty much the worst first day of school pictures I have ever taken!  Maybe I'll do some second day of school pictures tomorrow to make up for it.  But, I probably won't.

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Sophia, my first-grader.  Even though she has no idea who Cyndi Lauper is, she was obviously inspired by her when she chose her outfit for today.  Who knew the eighties would make such a comeback, and among the six-year-old set to boot!  She was only a little happy about going to school...she was very concerned about how long the full day would be, having only done half-day in Kindergarten.

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Chloe's in 4th grade now!  What?  And she loves loves loves school with all her heart.  She was a little nervous for today, because none of her best friends were in her class, but this is Chloe.  She'll make 20 new best friends by the end of the week, I'm pretty sure.

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And, finally, Bria.  SEVENTH grade.  How can she possibly be in seventh grade?  I remember seventh grade like it was yesterday, even though it was back when Cyndi Lauper was dressing like Sophia and singing about girls just wanting to have fun.  I even remember what I wore on the first day of seventh grade, and believe me, I was nowhere near as adorable as Bria is.

I celebrated my first day as a mother whose entire brood was in school all day by having two work-related meetings.  At least one of them was in a restaurant! I also managed to fold some laundry.  Go me!

All went well today: Bria managed to find all of her classrooms (that was her main worry), Chloe found a friend in her class, and Sophia didn't even notice that 7 hours had gone by, though she did come home so incredibly exhausted that she had a total meltdown about having to do her chores.  It was so bad that she decided she was going to live in her room for the rest of her life and never come out.  But then she did come out, sobbing, and yelled at me because if she stayed in her room forever, she wouldn't eat!, and then she would die! and of course I wanted her to die! because I was the one making her either stay in her room or do her chores.

No worries.  Daddy came home and reasoned with her, and she happily did her chores and has been an angel ever since.  Sometimes I'm not the right person to reason with a crazy first-grader, I guess.  She had to miss soccer because of this, but I think that it was probably best.  She needed to rest (though I am not sure flailing on one's bed for an hour is exactly resting).

I am exhausted and off to bed myself.  That 6:00 alarm is going to come awfully early...