Tuesday, June 22, 2010

3300 Miles Later

3276 miles to be exact - That's right I am slightly crazy. Since last summer my kids have been begging to go to Iowa to visit their cousins. They had never been to their house and wanted to see where they "really live". So I started planning. As the plans progressed Greg told me I couldn't go that far alone with 5 kids (probably wise council) so he agreed to go with us. I gave him control of which route to take and we were off.

7 States - Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming, Montana
29 Different mammals (4 only as roadkill)
41 of the 50 state licence plates
11 days - 6 driving

I thought about typing up my entire list of animal sightings, dead and alive, but figured not even my own kids would care about that in 10 years - although, honestly, Greg still would.

Warning - this is a very long blog post. I know it is long, but I want my kids to remember this trip.

Our first major stop was Dinosaur National Monument. They are redoing the visitors center there so there is not much to see. In fact they don't even charge you to get in, but we did get to see some dinosaur bones and go for a little hike. Then we were back on the road.

Natali and Andrew next to Sauropod leg bone.

Mack by another bone - see the white arrow pointing at the bone?

We went to a State Park in Colorado famous for it's moose concentration. Greg took the boys for a walk while I nursed the baby and while we were in the park we saw three moose - not bad. We have no pictures of the moose which I see as a huge accomplishment. Why you ask? All of the kids saw the Moose! Greg dragged them each out into the rain and patiently pointed and directed until each of them saw the moose. By the time he was done the moose had moved without the camera even coming out of its case. Greg put the kids first. I loved it.

Then after a beautiful drive down the Poudre River we stopped in Fort Collins to visit some old friends from our Oklahoma days. Sadly, I forgot to take any pictures. When we first met The Delormes Natali was only a month old and they were newlyweds. Now 8 years later we both have 5 kids. It was so fun to visit with them. We had to drag the kids back in the car to drive until 1:00 in the morning to get into Nebraska.

The next morning we caught an hour of church and then got back on the road. We finally arrived at my sister's house that evening. The kids really did so well in the car. Emily slept most of the way. While the rest of the kids played games, learned the State Song, watched movies, and played with leapsters. They were always looking for licence plates and we did homework sheets, bingo and scavenger hunts. They loved staying in a different hotel every night but were always disappointed to leave the next morning before exploring the whole place.

Well my sister's house was so fun. For five days the kids just played. We only left the house with all of them once. They didn't need us to provide entertainment - they just loved being together.

Each day the three oldest girls went to a 2 hour session of arts in the parks. They loved it. One of the days they were going to have a talent show. Natali taught Myra the State Song. They sang it together and won the talent show. (For those who don't know the State Song sings all 50 states in alphabetical order - a handy song to know.) Natali and Myra had such fun together singing, painting, wearing matching clothes, and knitting. Myra was thrilled that I taught her how to knit - I never would have guessed that my knitting skills would make me a cool Aunt...

James and Mack were also inseparable. I wondered how long it would last that 9 year old James would want to hang out with 6 year old Mack. But they had a great time all week. Mack even went to a friends house with James. They mostly played Bakugan, but they also played in the forest, on the tramp, in the water, and kicked the ball around. Mack even picked up some vocab words; 'seriously' is now a common word used to show frustration or excitement.

Andrew loved looking for hawks, eagles, deer, snakes or anything else considered as wildlife. He played with anyone who was willing and loved it.

The boys had seen a snake and were showing me where he disappeared (no clue what Andrew is doing with his belly button)

Kate's favorite toy was Jonas's red car. Somehow the fights over this were kept to a minimum. Amazingly, the kids hardly fought at all.

And Emily - well she liked the swing.

I loved watching the kids play together and seeing the home, forest, and town I had heard so much about. But the best part was the late night talks with Laura and Aaron. I am so blessed to have such a wonderful sister. I have always been able to look up to her and learn from her example. I love her so much.

The Bernard's tree house was finished while we were there. I wish I had this tree house!

Kate loved opening and shutting the door. This picture was taken our last morning there and her obsessive control of the door had caused more than one breakdown. We were sad to go but everyone was running on very little sleep. We left before any major drama broke out, thus no bad memories. I think we'd all sign up to come back next summer.

Did I mention Greg flew off for a business trip soon after we arrived at the Bernards. We picked him up in Omaha on the way home then drove right along the Mormon trail all the way to Scotts Bluff. We got to see Chimney Rock and an amazing lightning storm.

Greg planed our route home so we could spend out last day of driving in Yellowstone. We were in Yellowstone for less than 24 hours but we managed to see 7 bears and tried to save the life of a baby river otter. He was stuck on the opposite side of the road from the river and the bloodstain in the middle of the road-- well lets just say we didn't think his mother would be back for him. We flagged down a ranger and let him use our peed on blanket (we love our deep sleeping Andrew) to pick up the snarling baby and take him to the river. We got back in the car and the kids said, "We were animal rescuers, like Diego." But sadly, we probably just saved him from getting hit by a car, to die of starvation or predation. It was sad but cool to see a river otter so close up. We all loved Yellowstone; no one even asked to watch a movie the whole time we were there. After we left the park Andrew engaged Greg and I in thirty minutes of 20 questions where every time he picked an animal, and 90% of the time that animal lived in Yellowstone. Sometimes it wouldn't live in North America, just "Lellowstone". It was so funny, for the first 20 minutes...

Now that I am home I wish I would have taken pictures of the BBQ sauce spilled in the back seat without getting any on the floor because the floor was so covered with garbage, Emily sleeping in hotel closets and bathrooms, all the kids playing together, The Delormes, or 7 people in one hotel room with only a small bed and a pull out couch. But lets be honest - it never even crossed my mind at the time. I just enjoyed the madness. We are already planning our route for next time - if Laura will take us.

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