Monthly Archives: June 2016

Vacation Photographs

Every year we go to Yellowstone. And every year, I post a bunch of stuff about how we went to Yellowstone. I’m sort of like Old Faithful.

The only years I remember NOT going to Yellowstone were a) when I was nine and my dad was newly diagnosed with myesthenia and was suffering greatly from the effects of the disease, and b) for several years when Jack was young and impossible to take anywhere because screaming.

Anyway, we went on our annual pilgrimage this month and I was reminded why we keep doing this.

Wilderness unsullied by credit unions and Little Caesars at every turn is precious and restorative. Vacations with family create memories that cut through the daily repetition. And kid-friendly traditions in stunning locales are worth trudging to the bathroom through the rain, at night, in a separate building from your rough rider cabin. They really are.

And so, let us commence with the photographs.

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A mama deer and her adorably spotted fawn meandered through the cabins at Roosevelt.  This stream was a kid-magnet. And also a mosquito-magnet. But lovely just the same. Lost Creek, behind our cabin, and the surrounding forest look exactly as I picture the woodsy location in a storybook fairytale. Take a gander:

We saw several black bears doing adorable things like climbing trees and walking on fallen logs. We saw wildflowers. We hiked. And we saw views like this at Trout Lake.

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I mean, come on. I think this is what they mean by “glorious and beautiful,” *wink*

We take hiking very seriously.

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Rainy days in the wilderness are peaceful and enchanting.

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But so are sunny days with endless sky.

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We looked for animals in the Lamar Valley, instead of at our old viewing/stomping ground, affectionately called Bears in an Hour.

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Yellowstone abounds with vistas.

Exhibit A: Clear Lake, on the Wapiti Lake trail.

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Exhibits B, C, D, and E, etc.:

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Soda Butte Creek, looking toward the Lamar Valley.

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The hike to Storm Point, at the brink of Lake Yellowstone.

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Grand Prismatic Spring, the most photographed geyser in the park.

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And this thing, obvs.

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My mom had a total knee replacement less than three months before this trip, so three cheers for Grandma Shirley.

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Lake Yellowstone is a wonder. Massive. Ringed with thermal cones and hot pots. Gorgeous.

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One kid had to be talked into posing for this pic and one was happy to oblige. Oddly, they chose the right face holes which seem to match their attitudes about this scenario.

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Cousins are the absolute best.

Mystic Falls gets more and more crowded every year, but it’s still a favorite. IMG_0711

I remember hiking this in 1989, the year after the Yellowstone fires burned through this entire area. Everything was blackened and ashy. It was lifeless and depressing. But almost 30 years hence, it’s teeming with life and green and beauty. There’s a metaphor here, and it’s obvious enough that I can’t really make myself spell it out. Okay, I will. Whatever. Life evolves. Life regrows after tragedy. It isn’t the same afterward, but the transformation is a wonder. Children, also, make a person realize the passage of time. I posed before this waterfall when I was Charlie’s age. Now my children are posing here in their dusty sneakers and sweaty hiking-hair. And it all goes fast.

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Just Storm Point, no big deal.

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A tree stump turned tiny, verdant island sprouting seedlings. Magical. Like our time in the park. Maybe heaven looks a little like this place. I like to think it does.

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Except in heaven, no mosquitos, or tour buses. And Jack will be hiking right there with us.

This Summer Week

This week the little guys and I went to the dentist and to the movies, among other things, Because it’s 87,000 degrees outside and my brain has wilted, I’m going to recap these events in listicle.

I know. The Internet is so proud of me.

 

A) The dental assistant took my X-rays. Then she took films of the boys. Truman, whose only prior dentist visit was a scream-fest, was angelic and compliant. Later, my mom noted that it must be his age. “He has matured,” she remarked. “Maybe,” I said. “But he’s also on anxiety meds now, so they da real MVP.” #zoloft #winning

B) I floss every day. We brush copiously in this house. We had nary a cavity between us. And yet, the dental staff did something that many a dental office employee has done to me over the years. They shamed our dental hygiene. It’s like nothing short of two hours a day of laser-focused mouth cleanliness is good enough. Why do they do this? And what does it say about me that I am so predictably annoyed by the heavy-handed talk of our never-good-enough teeth cleaning practices? There was a lot of condescending talk about my gum line. They said our dental health could’ve been so much worse. “Yes!” I wanted to shout from my reclined chair. “But it wasn’t! We straight up passed this dental “exam” with flying colors. Y’all need to get away from the dental tools more and live a little.” But I didn’t.

C) Seriously. What’s wrong with me? Why do I want to close my eyes and cover my ears and just have robots clean my teeth instead? Nice, neutral, robotic automatons, who keep quiet and do their job without commentary? I have issues.

D) We saw Finding Dory. Like much of the Internet, I saw the connection between myself as a special-needs parent, and Dory and her parents. While Dory’s disability is short-term memory loss, her lack of focus and distractability, as well as her tendency to talk about random, unrelated things was awfully reminiscent of autism life.

E) “Dory has autism,” I kept saying in my head throughout the movie. She doesn’t, actually, but it felt that way to me.

F) My kids were really good during the movie. Charlie did ask 4 million questions, but he asked them fairly quietly, so yay for progress. Truman did get up and wander around a bit, lying on the steps and leaning over the railing. But he did it unobtrusively, so I felt that we won this round of Getting the Children to Attend Movies Appropriately.

G) It’s been many years in the making, this day. I think I deserve a night out at a non-kid movie as a reward.

H) We got my car inspected and emissions-tested, which was quick and uneventful, as it should be.

I) We went swimming, twice. Truman got in the pool and practiced floating, blowing bubbles, and kicking his legs. He also jumped off the steps, going underwater in his life vest before bobbing back to the surface like a cork. He has never gotten in the pool once during every previous summer. When fear is subdued, people can live their lives, you guys. #zoloft #betterlivingthroughchemistry

J) Brexit happened. While I understand the enormity of this vote, I can’t stop thinking that the term “Brexit” sounds like a type of digestive biscuit. Because Brits love their digestive biscuits.

K) With my admittedly limited American perspective, I don’t have the same passionate stance on this topic that British people do. I’ve done a fair amount of reading about this issue, yet I can’t say I agree fully with one side. It’s a complex topic, and I’m possibly too far removed from this conundrum to form a reliable opinion on it. (Please disregard this pointless bullet point. Thank you).

L) Jack has been going to bed around midnight and waking up before six am, which is an effective form of Long Summer Day Torture. Super effective.

M) Not cool, but effective at toying with the parents’ mental health.

N) Summer mornings are lovely and smell brand new.

Lost in Thought

I woke up at 6:00 am this morning—much too early for a Saturday and a non-runner like me. I wanted to write. 

I got up, put on my bathrobe, and sat in front of the computer. 

And there was nothing to say. I couldn’t come up with anything. I made some attempts and they bored me. 

I ate Cocoa Puffs and went back to bed. 

This seems to be a trend, of late (the non-writing and the Cocoa Puffs). I want to write, for the cathartic energy I feel when I’m writing, but I’m stymied. 

I can’t read anymore, either. I simply can’t focus on the stories. My brain goes walkabout and I keep re-reading the same few pages without getting anywhere. This might seem like it should be alarming to me. Yet it has happened in periods of my life before, so I’m viewing it as a phase which will eventually pass. 

This is my current state: I can’t focus on books and I can’t write (much). I am left with eating and sleeping as my modes of escape/restoration (yay for eating and sleeping! Old reliables!) And I listen to the scriptures, which feels very restorative. 

From the outside, I sound rather disheveled. Strangely though, I feel calmer, better than I have in a long time. I feel peaceful, mostly. 

Maybe in my zen state I need less escaping.  

I may need fewer outlets to which my mind can escape because my mind is more still now. I think a lot. That sounds weird. Everyone thinks. But I find myself really pondering my experiences and examining my thought processes. It appears that I’ve replaced reading with metacognition, at least for the moment. 

Thinking is good. 

I think about Jack and his health and the surgeries which loom as real possibilities. I think about Charlie—his gifts and his weaknesses, and how I can work with them both. I think about the fact that Henry may only live in this house for four more years, and how that is crazy and I’m not ready to lose my oldest child/sense of family normalcy. I think about Truman and his feisty willfulness.

I think about how my perspective on abundance and gratitude, ability and purpose have changed. 

I think about my life now. I think less about what might happen. Mindfulness, yo.

Someday, books. I will be back.

For now, thinking. 

Early Morning Sedation

Getting up at 4:00 AM makes one see the world differently.

You get to see the neighborhood quiet and still. The mountains are purple, with pink clouds and lavender skies. Lights dot the valley and foothills. There aren’t even any runners out at this hour. Yet, like us, people are driving places. Americans are entirely too busy.

We loaded a sleepy Jack and his vacuum into the car long before daylight today. He is currently sedated for an MRI and dental work.

We arrived early. Just a few hospital staff and construction workers were around. Hospitals never sleep, but the Children’s Procedural Center looked like this this morning.


Jack wheeled his vacuum through check-in, the vital sign check point, the pre-sedation room, and into the anesthesiologist’s cubby where the doctor with the handlebar mustache put a root-beer flavored mask on Jack’s nose and mouth.

People are charmed by Jack’s red hair, his green eyes, his smile and deep teenage-ery chuckles, and by his vacuum. It’s like a pet. Or his baby. He sleeps with it. It rides with him in the car. He takes it to camp. And it goes to the children’s hospital with him.


I have a lot of love for people who go to work in the dark, when it still feels like the middle of the night. Every person who saw Jack this morning treated him with gentleness. They saw Jack. They got it. 

People are good and Jack brings out all the sweetness.

Grumpy Dinosaur Hates Carnivals

We took the boys to a family fun night the other day at the park near our house. Because it was free, the entire state and the populations of several surrounding states were there. Lines for each activity averaged 92 minutes. That is simply an estimate, based on how long it felt like each line took.

The evening was hot. Children were bouncing around, literally. They were also whining, obv. My neighbor, Lindsay, was in a line with her kids for a bouncy thing near me and deadpanned, “Living the dream.”

Jack and Junior showed up at one point and Jack cut into the front of a line and darted into a bouncy house before Junior retrieved him. Jack simply does what everyone wishes they could do in this situation.

When I am hot, tired, and trapped in endless lines, something happens to me and, not unlike Bruce Banner’s transformation into the Hulk, I turn into a person who is highly disillusioned by humanity. Carnivals, amusement parks, and “family fun” events trigger something in me.

I turn into a grumpy dinosaur.

I want to roar and swat at things so they will get out of my way. I’d have left that hot, crowded park at an ungainly clip, my spiked tail knocking down small children at a whim.

I am a dinosaur.

Conflict Resolution

Two of my children have spent much of this, the first week of summer, arguing with me. I don’t believe they are trying to be difficult. 

They are trying to get their way. And they will try every available avenue before blazing a new trail, if necessary, until they have succeeded. I have to admire their tenacity, even as I want to banish them to a rickety attic space like Cinderella’s bedroom so I can be in my house without having to constantly listen to all the reasons I am wrong and they are right.

I’m at a point where I want to take them by the shoulders, look into their eyes, and say, “I’m really glad you understand the principles of argumentation and rhetoric, and that you are a whiz at trouble-shooting and thinking outside the box. And I’m happy that you are intimately acquainted with the quality of persistence. But if we are all going to peaceably coexist this long summer, you’ve got to back off.”

I haven’t done this. I will be met with more arguing.