Until we meet again

The bond we’ve created over these past couple of months with our children has been more momentous than I even hoped. The last day of our summer together, or as we’re calling it, Chapter 1, we sought out a nice little thrift store that had some of the most fun nostalgia I had seen.

I had a little puppy piggy bank, JUST LIKE this one, with one difference, mine had a little blue tear drop. I have no idea who this character is, but it whooshed me back to nostalgia before I even set foot in the store.

I suggested Ethan try on the bow tie, which always reminds me of his Grandpa Frank. I thought he looked so cute with his hat bow tie.

Joe and Ethan keep watching these Kermit the Frog singing videos (and Toad from Mario singing videos…so obnoxious) and this phone ALMOST found a place in our home because of that.

Then I ran into Care Bears and Polly Pockets merch. Care Bears was when I was little and Polly Pockets reminded me of all the little sets my sisters had. I had forgotten about them! We found a Star Wars set that reminded Eric of his big brother, who was always gentle and respectful of his toys. This set reminded Eric of a Star Wars toy Eric threw on the ground and shattered during a play session as a child, and how devastated his brother was that he was so destructive with that toy.

We were invited to dinner at Joe and Ethan’s Great Aunt and Uncle’s home, which turned out to only be about 8 minutes from where we were staying. I had not seen them in about 8 years, so I was looking forward to catching up.

They warmly opened up their home and gave us a tour of their property. Much of the art adorning their walls were created by their artistic family. Aunt Robyn makes award winning quilts, and she shared a current project she was working on for Joe and Ethan’s Aunt. She also shared images of a project she had created for a couple celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary. Loved ones received plain white tiles of cloth to write a note, then Robyn quilted them into one big love blanket. I think that is possibly one of the most beautiful gifts I have ever heard of.

In the back yard, they had croquet and horseshoes set up and the smell of fresh grilled food and a beautifully set table on the deck felt so cozy summer-y I wanted to squeal.

We met their young chickens, who have their very own chicken swing in their coop, which I loved, and their turkeys, who are only a few weeks away from being ready to process. We LOVED them.

Then we took a gander over to the garden, where they had beautiful organic produce. We were commenting on how much Ethan loves onions, and that he’d eat them like an apple when Uncle Lloyd casually strolled over with Ethan and told him to pull one out. Ethan was elated when he grabbed a perfect onion and Lloyd said it was all his. They did a little wash and cut and Ethan beamed and started his appetizer.

We then went over to the other garden, where there were fresh strawberries ready, Jill’s favorite. She picked a few and cuddled with them until they were washed and then saved them to eat with her dinner.

In the meantime, Joe grabbed a strawberry, did not care about washing it, and ate it before anyone noticed.

Aunt Robyn is a fabulous cook and she made one of the most delicious meals we had for a while. BBQ chickens, organically raised right over in the chicken coop, corn salad, pickled cucumbers and onions, French potatoes, watermelon, and, sticking to the tradition of the area, huckleberry ice cream for dessert. The conversation was delightful, and it was fantastic to catch up with them. Both Joe and Ethan decided they want a property like this when they are older, and want to be self-sustaining and have fresh foods at their fingertips.

Ethan and Joe played a few games of chess while the adults chatted and we played with the super sweet and adorable Golden Retriever, Maddie.

On the way to the airport the next morning, Joe and Ethan had a donut from a little shop hilariously named Gross Donuts. They said they were delicious, so the name is a lie.

We got to the airport and talked about how bittersweet it is for them to be leaving. They are excited to go see their dad, spend time with friends, have unlimited utilities and more space, but they are sad to be leaving our team and hoping not to miss out on too many experiences.

It’ll only be a few weeks, but my heart ached and I could not look away as the plane began its journey with cargo most precious to me.

But the real tear jerker was reading a heart-felt letter I requested Joe and Ethan type, a few weeks earlier, for me to read the day they left. Eric and I sat at a picnic table during sunset at the park we went that night while we talked about how much we miss them already and some of the hilarious memories we are cherishing from Chapter 1. We are so proud of the beautiful hearts of our children and feel blessed beyond words to be theirs.

We found a unicorn and Harry Potter at Coeur d’Lane

Ethan has been wanting to grow his hair out. He wants it so long that a braid will go down his back. Jillian is trying to convince him not to do it, but I think it’s his hair and he can do whatever he’d like, so, we’ll see. After he told me he wanted braids though, I had to grab some rubber bands and attempt to braid the longest part of hair I could find on his head. It’s short, so I kept having to add a rubber band and then keep braiding. The cool thing is, Ethan turned into a unicorn with this little hair do. He was giggling, but was pretending to be serious in the pictures, so I told him to give me his pretty face and he gave me this. I swear that kid smiles nicely, he just thinks it’s too fun to look goofy in photos.

In the meantime, we’ve been working with Gabe and Jill’s picky eating habits. The night before, Eric made his incredibly delicious bratwurst soup which tastes like a stew/chicken noodle soup hybrid with big thick homemade noodles. Everyone except Gabe gobbled up at least one bowl, so we made a deal that the next meal Gabe ate was his leftover soup. This was his breakfast the next morning instead of his favorite thing on the planet, frosted flakes. Little wins for Dad and Gabe looks quite proud of his accomplishment!

This was the last week of summer where we’d all be together, Joe and Ethan were to fly back to Colorado and spend some time with their dad. I’d asked what the wish list items for each Joe and Ethan were for the last week of summer with us would be. Joe’s requests were antiquing and fishing and Ethan wanted to go kayaking. On our way to go antiquing, we put the awning in and it fell off of the rail again. Of course it was nearly 100 degrees and we’d just showered and got ready to go, but I went to the store and picked up some self tapping screws and Eric and the kids fixed the awning. We had hoped to do a scavenger hunt on an app I bought Eric for Christmas in Coeur d’Lane in addition to antiquing, but by the time the awning was fixed, antique stores and the scavenger hunt museum starting location were closed.

We opted to go to a nice dinner at the lake instead. Everyone had a great time at dinner.

The next day we rented a couple kayaks and went into the water at a little river that feeds into Coeur d’Lane. The water felt like bathtub water compared to the falls we had just endured. I would definitely love to rent one of the properties at the water’s edge. It looked like they were building a tiny house village on one of the site…now THAT would be fun!

Joe attempted to fish. The fishing was actually really good, there were several people around us coming up with catches, and Joe wanted to get some salmon for dinner before they left. He said he caught one, but it got away. He broke his fishing line, had to restring, and then recast. When he came back to us, we saw that he did make a very large catch, just not very edible.

Joe also decided to get out of the kayak in his hilarious face down maneuver. He can be so funny sometimes.

As we said goodbye to the day, Gabe practiced his “Olympics”, some sort of running and jumping thing in the sand, and Jill and Ethan used the sand as canvases to draw masterpieces while they dried off. Their friendship has deepened and they now call each other their best friends, I’m so grateful that they found each other.

Gabe lost his glasses at the waterfalls, so Eric and Gabe went to get a new pair. He got many Harry Potter comments at the lake from strangers, so Jillian decided to give him the official Harry Potter lightning scar. I do like how they frame his big beautiful blue eyes!

Let’s go chasing waterfalls

The temperature outside, in the shade, was 105 degrees. We thought we were so clever coming up north during the middle of the summer, but with a heat wave like this one, there wasn’t much escape.

We got set up on some BLM land for a couple nights, just between the cities of Troy and Libby, Montana. Our poor air conditioner could not keep up with the heat. The generator kept overloading because the air conditioner was working so hard, and it was still easily over 90 degrees inside the trailer. The location was beautifully covered in fern undergrowth, and it felt like a place one would find woodland fairies and magical beings.

Jillian picked this sweet little flower for us from this site’s “garden.”

We’re getting good at creative ways of conservation. Joe had a bowl of cereal and used his leftover milk to make coffee in his bowl.

An employee at the Verizon store in Kalipsell had recommended some awesome stuff, saying that since so much of Glacier National Park was closed, we would maybe enjoy some other things instead. One of the suggestions was a place he called horse island, which we will have to see another time, but the place on our way to the next destination was called Kootenai Falls and the Kootenai Suspension bridge. He mentioned there were spots to get in and cool off in the river, so we set off for something to cool us off.

The hike was more of a shaded nature trail than a hike, but it was so beautiful that anything we wrote would not be able to describe the magical feel of this place.

We tasted the wild blueberries and was told that even though they were pretty, we had to stay away from the orange and yellow poisonous berries.

We could hear the river roaring and every time we got a peek of the teal water we went faster.

The suspension bridge was very well maintained and looked incredibly safe. Everyone eventually conquered their fear of heights and bouncing suspended 130 feet in the air and got to the other side of the bridge.

Just on the other side, we saw this busy little beetle, digging random places in the sand. This video is real time, it was probably one of the cuter things I have seen a bug do.

We crossed a tiny mountain stream where it met up with the roaring teal river, and as soon as we got to the water, we noticed millions of gold sparkling flecks in the water. Although it was pyrite, it was gorgeous. Anyone who knows me knows that water, being outside, and glitter in the same spot is pretty much heaven in my book. Ethan and Eric were the first to get in the river and everyone else did as well. We had fun attempting the perfect head flick of water.

On the way back, Eric and Gabe decided to play trolls at the bridge. I felt like I was in Monty Python or Dora the Explorer.

The parents took our stroll a bit more leisurely than the kids. When we got back to the trailhead, we noticed they had decided to pick the toddler table to sit at. Seems like they are big dogs thinking they are little dogs to me.

We were refreshed and so happy to have gone on that little walk.

We decided to go again and get out of the heat. This time, I wanted to get to the upper falls that apparently a person could get in under.

We were pleasantly rewarded with the little journey. I was actually a little bit less distance and intensity of a hike, but the views were spectacular. We dipped our toes and actually jumped into the water and swam behind one of the falls. Although it was hot, it took much longer to ‘get used’ to the water temperature than in the waters we’d experienced before.

After we finished the hike, we were hot again and bought the kids ice cream. At the stand, there were these two books together and I couldn’t help but giggle, “Yuck, Joe Chips” is all I could see.

Little irritants

Our next stop was another lake, McGregor Lake, but this time we had full hookups again. The campground hosts were very friendly, and we were across the street from a great little lodge/restaurant that many locals frequented. On one side of the campground was McGregor Lake, and on the other side was Little McGregor Lake.

Unfortunately, Ethan had developed a large itchy rash, and I didn’t feel comfortable taking him down to the lake in case it was something like swimmer’s itch that could get aggravated again. The rash didn’t bother him, but it looked a lot like chicken pox once it ran its course. He is vaccinated, but I guess it is possible he got a slight case. In any case, with Benadryl and calamine lotion on board, he is back to his soft and supple kid skin again.

We all took turns riding bikes to Little McGregor Lake. It was a 5 minute or so ride, but a fun way to enjoy being outside without being eaten by mosquitoes.

While Eric and I were at the little lake, we ran into a local who was telling us some of the good fishing spots in the area. We saw a giant bald eagle soar and then nest in a tree across the lake and heard the call of the loons. On the cliff opposite of where we were standing, some kids were jumping off and into the water.

One night, we all went to the lodge and played games and ate dinner. It was a fun evening and Eric and I decided that would be a good date night.

On our date night, Eric and I sat outside. There was a sweet old dog who approached and we swooned and gave him some love. When the waitress came by, we asked if the dog was a stray and she said no…it was one of the local’s dog. Shortly after, the owner of the dog came out and told us he was 15 years old. We were in shock because he acted like he was only 5 and his face looked so young. But, the mother was hit by a truck when the puppy was only 6 days old, so the owner had the dog the entire 15 years and is his best buddy in the world, traveling everywhere together.

We had some great conversation with him and another couple who came to join us. One thing that I’ve really enjoyed is meeting and chatting with some of the people in the area, hearing about their story and getting insider tips. The 6 of us closed down the lodge and the owners locked up and let us hang out on their deck for as long as we desired. Eric and I walked back to camp, chatting about how great of a night we had.

It was a move day in the morning, so we thought doing some prep by pulling in the awning would be a good idea. As I was pressing the button, our awning fell off the side. It was roughly 1:00 am and we were torn between leaving it until morning and risking wind picking up, or attempting to get it put together some that night. We opted for option 2 and attempted to be as quiet as we possibly could. The guy in the camper next to us, known by half the campground as a grumpy old guy, came out and yelled at us. I apologize profusely and he didn’t care and stormed around waking up the camp hosts. Thankfully, Eric had become friends with the hosts and most of the other campers, so nothing major happened, but that has been our first run in with a truly not kind interaction. During the day, by the way, this neighbor glared at everyone that walked by and was just as mean, so it’s not that it was just late at night, he just isn’t the happiest person apparently.

With Eric, Joe, Ethan and I all working on the awning, we got it seated back into its spot and screwed down. Temporary fix but it worked enough to get to bed.

Be my cherry pie

The next location was a Bowman Orchards on Flathead Lake. It was harvest season, so the trees were stunning with the bright green leaves and red cherries.

The location itself was a bit different than we had imagined, but the hosts were delightful, and the cherries were delicious.

Eric and I are attempting to make a regular occurrence of adult only date nights. Flathead Lake is HUGE, it’s over 27 miles long and 197 square miles of area. I was looking for the perfect pairing for one of my niece’s birthday gifts and was having a heck of a time finding what I wanted. There were some places we thought could work so we set out as our first part of the date to shop. The little shop we wanted to visit was closed, but it was right next to this really cool historic marker. The inscription reads that the parts seen are from one of the last steamboats in the harbor that transported goods using the river way. A cool gem we did not expect to see.

We saw an adorable spotted fawn and its mom enjoying their dinner.

On our way to one of the little dives on the lake, we passed through a golf course community and found one of my dream properties for sale on the water. Someday…

We wanted a view of the lake on our date, so we picked a little place with a private patio dock. It was a lively and chill place to go hang out, watch the sun set as the waves come in and eat some very tasty food. We had the cherry bourbon glazed ribs and a salad, and it was great!

My wonderful and handsome date and partner in memory making.

Ethan and Jill played chess. Ethan is so good, he’s been kicking my butt for years. He did the same to poor Jillian, and once to me yet again.

From Bowman Orchards, we bought some Rainier cherries, cherry tarts, cherry butter honey, cherry huckleberry jam, cherry wine, and a couple little gifts. Everything was delicious, except the wine, which had turned to vinegar. We paired the wine with spaghetti, and although it was horrible alone, it added some good flavor to the sauce itself.

After spaghetti, we ate the entire bag of cherries and played the board game, Beat the Parents, which took so long that we went to bed without ending the game. 

Rest and Relaxation-y

There was a local beer I tried, called Moose Drool, that I believe is absolutely delicious. We found out their brewery, Big Sky Brewing Company, is a Harvest Host in Missoula, MT. Excitedly, we made arrangements to go and stay a night there.

We needed to run some errands, and on our way, we saw some flowers that looked like Scottish thistle on the side of the road. This flower is significant to us because when we met, we watched the TV series, Outlander, a show based upon a couple’s undying love for each other. Eric, being part Scottish, adopts that he is Jamie and I am Claire, and he even calls me Jamie’s pet name for Claire, Sassenach. One of the imagery items of the show is the Scottish thistle. I felt we needed to get close-up pictures of the purple flowers, and, since I was driving the car, I forced these pictures. Eric was thrilled. 😊

This brewery was the first location that it was not a comfortable 75 or so degrees all day, so we welcomed the air conditioning of the brewery. If you ever find it, try the Huck It beer and the Ginger Lemon Basil seltzer, they are so refreshing on a hot day! We watched the sun set and enjoyed our giant front lawn for the evening.

After the brewery, we headed to Holland Lake, about an hour or so North of Missoula, MT. The drive was breathtaking. The trees were easily double in height of the trees in Colorado and Joe and I mentioned how small it made us feel. This world is such a big place and we are full-heartedly grateful to be able to see sights like this.

Once we arrived at the lake, I was thwarted into happy memories of my childhood at our camping spot. It reminded me of the mountain camping I did with my parents as a kid in our pop-up camper. Although we did not have hookups, we were right next to (ultra luxury at this point) flush toilets, a potable water spigot, and had a Bob Ross style view from the lake. After we were set up, I took my book down to the water, read and disconnected from everything electronics.

Surprisingly, the mosquitoes were less abundant at the lake than at our campsite. After talking to a local, we learned the mosquitoes started late this year, but when they did decide to show up, they came HUNGRY. Wearing clothing and spraying DEET barely helped. Speaking of bugs, caterpillars kept falling from the trees. Joe, Ethan and Jill decided to adopt this cute one and even named it.

We ended up looking up what kind of caterpillar it was, and it turns out its little spines are actually poisonous, and this caterpillar shouldn’t be handled. Oops. No rashes, so we were okay. It looked perfectly blended on the tree so that became its home. It didn’t move the entire time we were there.

And sad news for Jill, the caterpillar was going to be her favorite animal, a moth. ☹

In our bag of baby carrots from the store, Ethan found a teenager carrot and all the kids thought it was hilarious.

Ethan is still refilling and using his vintage store find teacup most days.

Joe and I went on an expedition to find the “huge waterfall” near the lake. We took a couple wrong turns and never ended up finding the trail head, but we did find this sign at the edge of a private driveway and thought it was a hysterical way to ask for people to turn around.

The next day we spent mostly just swimming down by the lake. There were several people on SUPs, canoes and kayaks, motorboats towing skiers, fishing boats catching trout, and jet skis. It was a busy spot and felt like a big summer party.

There were sooo many fish in this lake and they seemed completely desensitized to humans. If you got in the water and stood still for even a minute, you were swarmed with fish. I attempted to record it around my legs but the reflection of the water made it tricky, so here’s the best I got.

Ethan and Jill attempted to catch the fish by smashing them with rocks, grabbing with their bare hands, and scooping them with a bucket, but instead, they caught a little frog and decided to adopt it for a few hours. We have no idea how to sex a frog, so Jill just decided it was a girl. We named her Dottie.

Joe decided to ‘lay down’ and it was too great of a photo op to miss.

We had some foam rubber band rockets that they decided to launch at each other. The close-up of Ethan’s face should probably be checked out, it’s a good one.

When Eric came down to join us, he lay down and attempted a nap. Of course, when you have teenagers, they don’t let you sleep in peace. Instead, they conspire against you and draw smiley faces out of lake water on your belly.

No rest for the wicked 😉

The cloud cover made it comfortable to hang out down by the lake all day, and the fog rolled in all day and then would clear, which made it look like something out of a movie scene.

Eric and I communicate through walkie talkies while backing in and pulling out of spaces and use them in areas where there is no cell coverage while we’re caravanning and want to communicate. We have quite a bit of fun with these sometimes, cracking each other up with our commentary. Joe found a rockie talkie and decided he will now be part of the walkie talkie shenanigans. It now lives in the door of my car.

On our way out of the lake area, we stopped at the closest little restaurant around. It was literally the worst service I’ve ever experienced and they were short staffed in the kitchen so half the menu was not available, but the outdoor area had cornhole and was a great way to spend a couple hours waiting for food. The kids also got to run laps when they were getting ansty, it was a nice open space and they did good. Amazing how running laps made them turn their attitudes around, Eric may be on to something.

My Anaconda don’t…

Anaconda is the place where the largest free-standing brick building in the world, and is actually about 300’ higher than the Washington Monument. One of the people we ran across said it’s so big that the inside of the top of the tower is big enough for a truck to drive around. We attempted to see it up close, but, like most of the things we wanted to see, we had to pay for a tour and it was closed when we were there (either after hours or due to COVID).

There was a viewing station and memorial area, where we could view the smelter stack through binoculars.

I had the kids all stand inside one of the crucibles to take a picture.

They wouldn’t look at me at the same time. For some reason the water at the bottom was freaking them out.

Then Eric came to my rescue and pulled his shirt up and flashed them his bare chest. They all looked. He’s so smart.

After the flashing, we read about the people and processes that made this place what it is today. Joe had to comment that the steel statue men had “ideal body proportions” with their lack of a neck.

And a replica diameter of the interior and exterior walls of the smelter stack. The interior was marked by a brick ring, and the outside of the sidewalk was how thick the smelter stack wall is. The interior had glittery black sand and we could feel the heat of the sun (baking heat ray things). All of a sudden, a teeny green grasshopper jumped from a rock, to the brick wall, and then into the hot black pit of sand. I was so worried that it was going to die a blistery hot death that Joe appeased me by making it his mission to save him.

Then we drove through Anaconda and stopped at an antique store calling our name. It was a hot spot pelt trading store at one point, so they had a TON of pelts and furs. Eric was rocking some raccoon hats and he made Jill wear a lynx (we think) coat. She at first was super squeamish and then after a lesson in sustainability and population control of hunting, she was a little better. I’m with ya, Jill…my meat comes from a store, not animals. 😉 Eric was rocking out. First with his original accordion song, and then some head banging with all the raccoon hats.

Joe and Ethan found an old typewriter and they immediately wanted it badly. They couldn’t afford it individually, so they pooled their money together and bought it together. The plan is, Joe wants to use it to type letters and Ethan wants to write his first novel, a WWII piece. Ethan also got a white vintage china teacup. They were both stoked about their finds.

We went on to Georgetown Lake, a glacial melt lake that rented kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards. At the marina, we hopped in our floating devices and started paddling. The kids were naturals, everyone was off and rocking the water.

We were about 45 minutes into our hour rental period, and we rounded up the kids to go inside. A larger boat came by and created big enough wake that Eric and my kayak started to tip over. Once we were sideways, I decided I decided not to fight the tip anymore and just bail. Eric yelled, “Nooooo!” and we were in the water. The water wasn’t the coldest either of us had ever been in, but snow melt water definitely takes a person’s breath away. The kids came to our rescue and helped us right side the boat. Except Gabe, he thought we had tipped for fun, so he also had tipped over. The only problem is, he couldn’t get his canoe right sided again, the front drain plug was missing. Thankfully, we were close to the dock, so Eric sent Gabe to swim to the dock and then Eric pulled the half full canoe to the back.

Back at camp, Joe started writing letters to family and Ethan washed and sipped tea his new England Bone China teacup.    

History Lessons in Mining and Early Western Life

We attempted to go to the statue Our Lady of the Rockies, a bright white marble statue of Jesus’ mother, Mary, that stands watch over the vast Berkley Pit, but the only way to get there is to take a tour, so we opted to do something else. In Butte and Anaconda are known for their part in mining, especially copper. They’ve memorialized the mining industry in many ways around the town. There are smelter stacks, headframes above old mine shafts, crucibles, statues, and memorials all around the area. Eric, Joe, Ethan and I all went to the first ever smelter location (which failed, but still standing) and did an old serious-faced style picture.

To learn about more of the history of the area, we went to the largest history museum in the US, the World Museum of Mining, in Butte, MT. They recreated some of the town’s buildings and on some of them, put information about the people who lived and worked in them.

The Orhan Girl Mine shaft is still standing today and it was possible to walk around and touch the items used during mining. It was a pretty cool museum, but I did have ideas for what I believe would be improvements.

On the way back from the museum, we got hungry and tried Taco John’s for the first time. It was ok, but a friend told me I ordered incorrectly, so we’ll have to try it again.

We picnicked at the park and played on the playground. They had THE most fun swing EVER there. It was like a seesaw. They were slippery and SO much fun!! Gabe was making Jill squeal!

ah! Bob Saget!

We arrived at Farimont Hot Springs RV resort, a town located between Anaconda and Butte, MT, ready to check on the damage of our blow-out. Damage details: No power to the kitchen slide (no microwave, outlets or refrigerator), bumpy kitchen flooring with only one staple poking through the linoleum, and a bit of cosmetic damage on the exterior skirt panels. All in all, it could have been worse. We found a tire store and a hardware store that Eric was able to find some electrical parts he needed to put humpty back together. Eric was a rock star. He wired everything up and all is working perfectly again. He even re-sealed with a product the informercial makes too fun not to try…some Flex Seal. Yes, it’s actually kind of awesome and is working.

Our spot had free WiFi (which turned out to be so awful that we didn’t even use it), showers, laundry, a little store and full hook-ups. We gave the trailer a much-needed interior scrubbing. Having a clean home makes momma, aka me, so happy.

The resort was around the corner from Fairmont Hot Springs, a 115-degree spring that they mix with cool water and allow bathers to enjoy, for a fee, of course. The day was expensive, but super fun. We spent the day lounging in and by the pool, drinking smoothies and splashing each other in the water.

The second I hopped in the warm (100 degrees warm) pool, Ethan and Joe surrounded me and flipped me off my serene floatie. If anyone wants a couple stinky children, please feel free to message me. 😉 Eric asked Gabe to get on his shoulders, so Gabe did. It was cute how sweet and unassuming Gabe was, being all smiles on Daddy’s shoulders. Then, suddenly, Erin flung his upper body forward and Gabe face planted in the water and came up laughing so hard and saying he wanted to do it again. I wish I had that first launch on video, but instead I got all videos after it. Eric became the pool attraction and all the kids wanted a turn, even Joe, who outweighs Eric.

We barreled down the hot springs water slide, for an additional $10/person fee of course, and Gabe and Ethan went about 467 times. The most animated rider though was Eric by far. We all would sit at the bottom of the slide and hear to hear and see what Eric’s reaction each time will be. The funniest exit is when Eric yelled, “Bob Saget!”, which is Eric’s g-rated swearing inspired by a YouTube video (NOT APPROPRIATE FOR ALL AUDIENCES – Bob Saget explaining Tourette’s Guy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGssXhgLVcI and Tourette’s Guy’s Bob Saget and others compilation – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2NM7QyHlyY – by the way, Tourette’s Guy is a comedian/actor, he doesn’t really have Tourette’s). After the Bob Saget yell, we hear three thumps and see Eric launching out of the end.

Yellowstone…the Finale

I caught a little bug (non-COVID) so we spent most of our last week in Yellowstone just hanging around camp and living. Once I started feeling better, we did our last few days of tourist sight-seeing in Yellowstone park.

One awesome thing about this lifestyle is that I can sit with my computer and work outside. The other “perk” is getting REALLY close with nature. And by that, I mean a teeny caterpillar decided to land on my laptop keyboard as I was typing. I gave the cute little guy to Jillian and she enjoyed his company so I could not worry about smashing him with my feverishly pounding type-ings.

Since it stays light until 10 pm every night, we are able to get a lot of sight-seeing in after work! We went to Gibbon Falls, Golden Gate Falls and the Mammoth Hot Springs one day after work. We didn’t make it down the path to the bottom of Mammoth. People were tightly packed and many were not masked so we felt like it was a COVID-y situation. Maybe we’ll come back someday and do it again, we decided to be safe just in case, though. The trail had some beautiful wild roses and the road to Mammoth Hot Springs went through an otherworldly boulder field that made me want to get out and climb.

On our way back to town, we passed a herd of what looked like a bunch of female elk. Someone in the car asked where the male elk were. I yelled, “LADIES’ NIGHT!” so excitedly that I even embarrassed myself. We later saw a few males down the road. I, however, stick with the ladies’ night comment.

Eric and I went to the grocery store while we were in town. I get the following text from Ethan beanz #notafazemom so of course we grabbed him two cans of beans. Quick note, he didn’t even ask for beans before we went in…just a random ism of Ethan.

We decided to go souvenir shopping. Ethan and Joe went straight to the hundreds of SHARP knives (as you may remember, he’s still healing from the last knife incident).

Then Ethan used his best negotiation skills to try and convince me that he needs a knife. He promises to pay more attention to the knife skill lessons Eric teaches, and will not even get the knife until lessons are complete and Eric is comfortable with his level of knowledge.

Side note: we found a knife with the name, Russ, on it. A while back, Eric and I decided that we were Griswolds, and that the boys were all Russ, and Jill was Audrey. So, in the car, every now and then, Eric will randomly yell out, “Russ!” or “Audrey!” to see if they are paying attention. Gabe doesn’t miss a beat and acknowledges the Russ comment. The other Russ-es and Audrey forget what’s going on more often than not, but we’ll keep practicing. Stay tuned.

The next day, we went to Grand Prismatic Spring where we saw the springs rushing into the cold river making a cozy warm area to soak in the frigid river.

The crystalline pools were mesmerizing, and it was easy to stare at them and get lost in your thoughts.

The steam blanketed the colorful pools at times, so I wondered what temperature would make the steam nearly disappear so we could see all the way down.

Up at Grand Prismatic, the largest spring, we saw tracks of an animal who had wandered through the spring water.

On our way back, we saw one huge buffalo. All the buffalo we’d seen up to that point were from our car, and although this gentleman was not close, it seemed much more dangerous when we were standing exposed without metal between us!

After the springs, we had a little pb&j picnic next to the river. I was surprised at how aggressive the little ants got, dozens of them running up my legs and biting me. It turns out I was making sandwiches while stepping on their anthill. Lesson learned, watch where you plant your feet! Regardless, it was a beautiful 80-degree day and we were soaking up some good old fashioned vitamin D!

I was so excited for our next stop and loooong showers with unlimited water supply and no dumping/packing up, so off we went for a little slice of civility.

One thing we’ve learned about ourselves, we often feel compelled to start it off with a bang. About an hour down the road, we blew a tire. It ripped through some of the flooring under the kitchen slide and chewed up a bundle of wires. Once the tire was changed and the cords were zip tied and duct taped out of the way, we kept on to our new home, preparing ourselves for yet another of Eric’s 457 projects to work on, and an investigation into what the wires control and how the tire blew in the first place.