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.

The band is back together

Lake Hattie helped us create some memories. Some good, some not as good. We learned that the rocket fireworks with the large wax wicks just blow up in your face when lit. We learned that this location is either VERY windy or clouded with swarming hungry mosquitoes. We’re learning how to co-habitate as one big happy family of emotions and different needs and desires. We’re learning how precious of a commodity fresh water, tank capacity and power can be, and we’re learning how to manage our messes in such a small space. I think we all feel a bit beat up with the roughing it, but it’s been a great way to learn what we really need.

The first day the band was back together, the weather was beautiful and sunny. The lake water was cold, but the air was nice and the wind wasn’t insane, so we swam, fished and made little clay sculptures. No fish caught, but enjoyed anyway.

The reception was so unpredictable at the lake that I had a hard time staying connected for work. We’re now looking into adding another phone carrier for some redundancy and connectivity.

Eric taught us some tips on how to skip rocks. Crouch low, flick your wrist and voila! We all practiced skipping rocks and we eventually all got it.

Jillian skipping rocks

Then finally, we caught some fish! Eric said Jillian has some of the best luck fishing, and sure enough, she caught the first one!

Then Eric, and then Joe! Eric taught us how to clean the fish, which I think secretly was his favorite part of the whole catch, and I tried be strong and not think of them as pets but as food. Joe played with his fish’s head, stuck a screaming chaser into it and asked if he could set it off. I wasn’t thinking the head would go far and I had visions of fish shrapnel flying everywhere. We had three little headless trout (their heads fell off, ok?) in our fridge waiting for consumption.

Joe’s first fish

Jill and Ethan are really blossoming in facing their fear of bugs and crawly things. Jill was playing with a lady bug and a giant beetle and Ethan has named all moths Greg so they are less scary. They are even saying “hello” to the little bugs that are flying around now.

Gabe decided to play either Boba Fett or do a modified yoga triangle pose, while squirting water from the squirt gun straight into the air. The wind was so strong that it blew away and not even a drop landed on him!

On our way back to Lake Hattie from Colorado, Joe bought a bunch of fireworks. The first couple of nights, when we had many neighbors staying with us for the weekend, Eric and Joe put on shows with the big-uns. Even Gabe, who has been afraid of fireworks until now, joined in and lit off some bottle rockets. PSA – lanterns don’t work very well in windy Wyoming. We’ll have to try again somewhere calmer.

On our last night at the lake, Eric and I attempted to float in the lake just off the shore. It was windy, so we basically just ended up constantly on shore, but we still got in the water for a bit and enjoyed the peace. We then burned the last of our firewood, roasted hot dogs over the fire, cooked up the trout and talked about things both serious and silly around the campfire.

Eric noticed that Ethan has a lot of Chimpanzee sounds, and now we all laugh when Ethan plays off of it. Here’s a goofy video of Ethan playing it up and us trying to get him to recreate his sounds. Probably going to have to “catch” him doing it and hope the camera is nearby in order to share the authentic sound.

Waking Ethan’s inner chimp

Some quality Eric and kiddo time

Eric, Gabe and Jill enjoyed a few days alone at Lake Hattie while Ethan and Joe spent time with their dad and I spent time with my sister and tied up some more loose ends back in Colorado.

They enjoyed pizza and rode bikes around our new site. Jillian sported some of her new birthday clothes even though it was a bit cold and windy for the summer gear.

Eric found a momma, we think fox, and her pups who hung around the bathrooms and trash scavenging. The sanitation group hadn’t picked up trash in a while, so it was overflowing and easy grabbing for the fox family. I hope they ate their veggies.

Then, mid-June…it snowed at the lake. Inside the camper they popped some popcorn and cuddled up to watch movies and watch the slow fly outside. Thankfully, the heater works great and they were cozy and warm.

The next day, the sun came out and although it warmed up some, it was a typical windy day in Wyoming. Eric made extra efforts to make sure camp was wind secure so we lost a minimal amount of stuff. RIP blue chair cover.

The sunset was absolutely beautiful that night, and Liberty gleamed like a post card.

Eric has Gabe and Jill convinced that he makes THE best macaroni and cheese. There is no doctoring, it’s literally followed directions on the box of plain old Kraft macaroni and cheese. The actual gourmet stuff that I’ve attempted to make them, with cream and cheddar and al dente noodles just isn’t as good to them…Dad makes the best, I won’t even try to argue with that one! Makes me laugh every time.

“The World’s Best Mac and Cheese” by Kraft & Eric

In other news, Eric lost the finger split, so he used his resourcefulness and put a small comb as a brace and taped it up. It does the job, and if he has any messy knuckle hair, it’ll be taken care of also.

While at the AT&T store to get more sim cards, Eric met Chris and Crystal Pohl, a kind couple who owns a mobile RV & Automobile repair business. They offered to come out to the site and take a look at some of the damage from the ‘incident’. They came out and helped install the new brake controller. We were so grateful and wanted to make sure they knew how much we appreciated them coming so we invited them for dinner whenever it worked for them. If anyone is in town and needs some mobile repair work done, we highly recommend them. Here is a link to their Facebook page with their company information

Help from All Season RV & Automotive Mobile Service in Laramie, WY

Dear Diary, Seriously though…what were we thinking?

Holy emotional roller coaster, Batman!

We knew things could get tough. Things were going to fail or break and people were going to lose their minds.

We had our first sleep in the trailer and I woke up near tears wondering if we’ve made the right decision in this journey.

Eric and I practiced backing, parking, set-up, tear-down, system operations, etc. over half a dozen times over these past two weeks. We were patting ourselves on the back with how amazing we communicated (ha – we’ll pass the trailer backing relationship test no problem!) and how great Eric did getting the trailer in and out of our tight little practice spaces.

SO many things had to fall into place in order for us to get to this stage and the fact that we were able to get everything done was a reminder that this life-changing step was going to work itself out for the best.

However, last night we were doing our first REAL set-up in a campground. We wanted to have a couple of nights in the trailer while we were finishing the final touch-up and cleanings of our place, so a Thursday night “launch” was what we’d planned.

We got to the site. It was a pull-through site which was a relief, but the hookups put our front door on the street instead of the campsite, so we thought we’d just back it in and hope our connections to power and water were long enough.

Backing in, we all of a sudden forgot which how to communicate which direction to turn the wheel to make the trailer back go right or left. Kids were antsy and wanted to get in the trailer and were hungry and just overall inpatient. Trying to remember everything in the order we’d practiced and not letting all the anxious energy from the kiddos caused a little grumpiness to set in. We checked our C’s: cords, connections, and clearance. Cords and connections wouldn’t reach so we had to move our door to the less ideal street side. No biggie, but all that backing and turning discussion our neighbors got to listen to was for not.

Eric pulled it around the loop and through the spot again like a champ. We began to unhitch and the fuse we had put in to fix the power tongue jack 3 days prior blew. Back to the manual cranking of the hitch, but this beast is NOT light, so it’s quite a workout. This little break threw us off for our set-up from then on. We put down the stabilizers before we were unhitched (no-no), we unlocked the ball hitch before the sway bars were released (another no-no), and even started to put the slides out before we were fully level. We spent much longer than we should have just re-working and doing the steps in the correct order. The site was so uneven that we didn’t have enough chocks and blocks to make a level surface, so we called it good enough with a mostly level trailer.

Once kids got inside, they brought all their belongings in. I was a crab and annoyed at how unsettled we all were. Eric was annoyed with me being grumpy. Jill’s shampoo spilled, so we searched for dirty soapy spots on her belongings and the trailer floor. Gabe was feeling a bit overwhelmed with the changes and wanted to get back onto his electronics, so he had a bit of a fit when he tripped over some of the stuff. Joe was fighting being frustrated and not knowing why, and Ethan was not his typical goofy self and instead wanted to just be by himself and not talk to anyone. We were all hungry. All tired. All sick of moving and downsizing. We quickly realized we didn’t have enough space for even the minimal stuff we’d had so belongings were strewn all over waiting for a home. More work on the horizon for that one.

At 9 pm we made one more hour round trip to the apartment to grab a few food items and some last toiletries. This has been an expensive endeavor getting all the supplies we needed to start up, so we were low on food, fuel, and money. It all got a bit overwhelming and I nervously bit off all of my remaining nails that hadn’t broken yet while looking for something to bring the kids to eat. Thankfully, we had plenty of eggs, and all the kids like scrambled eggs.

We get back to the trailer, Eric cooked a big batch of eggs, I made our bed and attempted to find homes for some of the items we had. The kids ate, practiced to washing their dishes by hand, and headed into their sanctuary bedroom. I hung their curtain room dividers the best I could and they were happy and cozy on their electronics with their strands of colorful lights.

While we were grabbing supplies, Ethan built our new house-warming gifts. Two of my absolutely generous co-workers/friends purchased adorable stools for us to use as extra dining seating, footstools, and whatever else we’ll need a stool for. I loved them so much that they really did make the whole stress of the evening melt away a bit.

After sleeping on the mattress in the ‘wild’ I decided it’s just not comfortable. Maybe someday we’ll move our large mattress into the bedroom, which should make the height of the bed just enough to be able to get on it if we start with a run and use a springboard.

I woke this morning, tired and feeling weepy. I started wondering why we’re doing this. It’s been so much work, we are worn out and there is a lot left to do.

Thankfully, Eric is the calm to my storms when I have them. He sent me this video and the lines, “…at some point we all bought into this lie that we have to feel ready in order to change. We are not designed to do things that are uncomfortable or scary or difficult and in order to change, in order to do all those things you know you want to do with your life, with your work, with your dreams, you’re going to have to do things that are difficult, uncertain, or scary.” and “You and I are designed to be purpose seeking mechanisms. When we’re not, when we live a life in our comfort zone, we live a life of survival.”

So I got into work, hair unbrushed (I forgot my brush) and tight, dry skin (forgot my face lotion), and got ready to seize the day. I shared a few first night experiences during water cooler chats and was reminded by one of my co-worker cheerleaders that we have grit and strength and are embarking on a remarkable journey. We’re almost to the point where we can enjoy the fruits of some of this labor. So one last push, a couple more days of moving and sorting and minimizing, and we can enjoy those things we seek. Freedom, adventure, knowledge, nature, and most of all, spending this precious time with our family.