Here I am, 5 days past my due date with baby #4, and we just finished painting his room last night. We assembled the crib this morning. He still doesn’t have bedding… just a couple sheets. I still have a mile-long list of things I’d like to get done before the little guy makes his debut. It is a good thing I am always overdue because with all my procrastinating, I’d never be ready for a baby that was actually born on time.
One of the things I’ve been putting off for more than a month now is my Christmas cards. I usually make our cards, and while it is something I really enjoy, it does take quite a bit of time. Last year I set up a reminder on my computer to let me know I should begin the process early in October. I thought it would save me from cramming it all into a week of late nights in early December. Every day the reminder pops up – Christmas Cards, 35 days overdue – and every day I click “remind me later”. I just can’t wrap my brain around card-making with a baby arriving any day.
But when the reminder popped up this morning, I clicked the “dismiss” button instead. My friend Tricia told me about how bloggers could get 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly. I decided to check them out, and was really surprised by how nice the Christmas cards are. They really do have some super cute cards! And I especially love that they have traditional folded cards, not just the typical flat photo cards. They have quite an array of Fall and Thanksgiving cards too.
Christmas cards… done. Now, if this little guy would just make his appearance, maybe I could start thinking about birth announcements…
Our next big destination was Yellowstone, but we made a couple surprise stops for the kids before we got there. We had secretly planned to visit towns bearing the names of each of our children in different places along our route, and the first of them was Harrison, Nebraska in honor of our oldest. We stopped for burgers, fries & shakes at a tiny cafe in the town and were thrilled to find a Harrison, NE souvenir T-shirt in the gift shop. Apparently Harrison is known as the town with the highest elevation and lowest population in the state.
After the quick detour in Nebraska, we headed to our next hotel in Casper, Wyoming. From this point in the trip we kept our driving times to around 6 hours a day because we knew we’d all be restless and tired of the car. That left plenty of time for things like laundry and swimming in the hotel pools. Our stop in Casper was little more than that. We got back on the road the next day and headed to another surprise destination. We took our dinosaur loving bunch to the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming. They have a nice museum, but the big highlight here was boarding a bus for a dusty drive up an old mountain road to a dinosaur dig site.
After our prehistoric diversion, we were back on the road to Yellowstone. We stopped to sleep at a little motel in Dubois, Wyoming, just outside the Tetons, so that we could start our trip into the parks bright and early in the morning. We had been hearing reports of “snow on the pass” throughout the evening. Sure enough, the next morning as we climbed over the continental divide, we found ourselves entering a winter wonderland. Unfortunately it was also a slushy, muddy wonderland because “the pass” was undergoing some pretty serious road construction. When we emerged on the other side, our car was unrecognizable beneath the shroud of caked-on mud.
Nonetheless, the overnight snow made for a breathtaking first glimpse of the Tetons. We spent a couple hours driving around the park, soaking in the crisp mountain air (a smell that no detergent manufacturer has ever accurately captured), in awe of how the mountains seemed to disappear into the clouds.
As we made our way through the park toward Yellowstone, I was amazed at how the scenery changed so quickly from one park to the next. Driving into Yellowstone from the south, with a dusting of snow covering all the pines, it felt like we were entering Narnia. We crossed the Continental Divide three more times, spotted a few deer along the way and caught a few glimpses of a winding blue river. By the time we made it to the Grand Loop Road, the snow was gone and the view outside had changed from white and green to prairie gold.
We drove to the hotel in West Yellowstone to meet my sister, who had traveled up from Utah to see Yellowstone with us, and then started sight-seeing around the lower loop toward Old Faithful. Let me just say, the smell of the bubbling pools of sulfuric goo in the geyser basin is something that will never escape my memory. I was amazed at how apocalyptic it all felt. We walked on boardwalks that were crossing these bubbling pools, surrounded by smelly steam so thick that I couldn’t see the kids in front of me.
When we made it to Old Faithful we were cold and damp from the steamy wind, and exhausted from a long day of driving. I was relieved to find a lovely climate-controlled visitors center with a comfortable bench and a nice view of the geyser where my sister and I could rest with the youngest. Then a few minutes before the expected eruption, we walked outside to see it close up. There was a lot of whispering, “oooh, is something happening?” and, “no, nothing yet,” but eventually Old Faithful proved true to its name.
On our second day in Yellowstone, we covered the upper loop which took us to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Tower Falls, and Mammoth Hot Springs.
We also traversed a few back roads in search of bears or moose, but there were none to be found. We saw massive elk and buffalo wandering all around the park, and each time there were hundreds of cars stopped in the road to take pictures. I thought the same thing here that I thought when we visited Disney in September, “If it is this busy now, I can only imagine what it would be like in summer!”
Finally, as we were driving through Lamar Valley, we caught a glimpse of a bear. You’ll just have to take my word for it because it was too far away for a good picture, but the people with the huge, thousand-dollar telephoto lenses on their cameras informed us that it was indeed a grizzly bear.
The next morning we headed out right after breakfast for one last drive through the park. When we saw a line of cars backed up for miles, we thought that certainly it had to be one of the rarer animals. After more than an hour of sitting in traffic we saw what might have started out as a moose or a bear, but in the end was only a fender-bender from someone taking pictures while driving.
The weather was beautiful and warm on our last day, so we stopped to see Old Faithful one more time before leaving the park. We also drove back through the Tetons. This time the scenery was quite different. The clouds and snow had been replaced by sunshine and blue sky. We ate lunch and spent a little time playing at Jenny Lake and attempted to hike for a little bit, but not more than 5 minutes after we got on the trail, our youngest had a bathroom emergency and we decided to put an end to our visit. With our bellies and our eyes full, we got back on the road toward Colorado.
We have this dream of visiting all 50 states with our boys before they leave the nest. I don’t know how possible that will be, but we decided to make a dent in that dream for our vacation this year. After months of planning and saving money and accumulating hotel points, the big day of departure finally arrived. As we began to load the car, I wondered if pregnancy hormones had caused me to take leave of my senses. Were we really about to pile our 9, 8, and 3 year old boys and their 8 months pregnant mama into the car and spend the next 15 days on the road? Crazy or not, there was no turning back.
I put together binders for each of the boys that were filled with facts, puzzles and coloring pages for each state. I also gave them each a travel-sized road atlas with our route highlighted and our destinations marked. We brought along crossword puzzles, dot-to-dots, Mad Libs and audio books.
Our first destination was St. Louis, MO. The drive went surprisingly quickly and we arrived still excited about our adventure. But after only about 10 minutes in our hotel room, we got a phone call informing us that one of the hotel guests had complained about the noise emanating from our room. Okay, so maybe we were letting them jump on the beds. But seriously, what would you suggest I do with three boys bursting with 9 hours worth of pent-up energy? Duct dape?
We began our second day with a visit to the Gateway Arch, and of course, a ride to the top. Then we continued our journey across Missouri and into Iowa toward our next hotel in Sioux City.
Our trek toward Mt. Rushmore began early the next morning. As we turned west into South Dakota, the winds began to pick up. Our gas mileage for this leg of the trip plummeted from 26 mpg to only 16. By the time we got to Badlands National Park, the wind was so strong the youngest and I did no more than hop out of the car for a quick photo before we clamored back in to escape the gusts.With the wind came a significant drop in temperature. When we arrived at Mt. Rushmore, we all had to change into warmer clothes in the car. Even with long pants and jackets we decided it was too cold to stay very long. We took a couple quick photos and decided to call it a day.
The next day was much better. The sun was shining and the wind was gone. We started the morning with a drive through Custer State Park. It was amazing. We drove past deer, herds of buffalo, pronghorn and prairie dogs.
Then we headed back to Mt. Rushmore to experience it in warmer weather and better lighting. I was so glad we decided to try again. This time we shed our jackets and hiked the trail up to the base of the mountain. It is truly a sight to behold.
Before the day was done we toured Jewel Cave and drove by Crazy Horse, and then made one more trip up to see the Presidents in the nightly lighting ceremony. It was an unforgettable day.
Despite hesitancy and schedule conflicts, we jumped right in to our school year this first week of August. I know that come November, our newest little bundle is going to slow things down a bit. And then Christmas will keep things on hold for a while longer… may as well work while we can.
So how did it go?
a.k.a. Why Disney should make more movies about food.
It started with a movie about a special little rat with a love of food. But not just food – a love of cooking. My kind of rat. Yes I know the movie is a few years old now, but when it first came out my kids were afraid of it – apparently the scene when they put Remy in the oven is a little frightening. So it wasn’t until it came on TV a couple months ago that they had any interest whatsoever in watching it again. Since then it has become one of their favorites. I knew it wouldn’t be long.
“Mom, can we make Ratatouille like the movie?”
Since we have recently started a weekly fancy dinner night and since I have been trying to remember to say yes more often, I told them we could give it a try. So I googled “how to make Ratatouille like the movie” and found a New York Times article featuring the actual recipe that inspired the dish in the movie.
To cut down on time and expense, we did things a little differently. I used red peppers only instead of all three colors and dried herbs because that is what I had on hand. I also used a can of diced tomatoes instead of peeling and seeding fresh ones for the “piperade”. We couldn’t find the Japanese eggplant, so I bought a smallish regular eggplant and quartered it before slicing. Instead of cooking at a low temp for 2 hours, we cranked it up to 450 and it was ready in 30 minutes.
It wasn’t all that difficult to prepare, but I would highly recommend the use of some kind of slicer to save time and make sure your slices are thin and even. I used a mandolin and had perfect 1/16 inch slices of all the veggies in less than 10 minutes.
It starts with the piperade (the yummy sauce in the bottom), a combination of roasted peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes and herbs cooked until soft and then pureed. Save about a tablespoon of the sauce for later.
Then you layer on the thinly sliced veggies – zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and tomatoes. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper and bake.
While your work of art is in the oven, you prepare the vinaigrette by blending together the piperade you saved, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. The ratatouille is ready when the veggies are soft. We sliced it and drizzled a little of the vinaigrette around and over the top.
I looked at that pile of vegetables fully expecting the kids to take one bite and run. After all, these are kids who pick the green peppers and onions off their pizza and push aside any chunks of tomato that might end up in their spaghetti. But much to my surprise, everyone (except the littlest one, who is currently on a food strike) loved it!
It is a little light for a main course, so I would recommend serving it with bread and salad. Yum!
I’m enjoying a semi-peaceful Saturday morning while hubby sleeps in and the kids lounge around watching Ratatouille for the thousandth time. Little one comes to me and says, “Moooom, Grant is sitting on my pillow!!”
Me: “Okay. Say to him, ‘Excuse me Grant, can I sit there please?’”
He promptly goes to his big brother and repeats my words verbatim. There is no response from big brother.
Me: “Grant, are you listening to your brother?”
Big Brother: “I can’t understand what he’s saying. What did you say, Sawyer?”
Little One: “Get off my pillow!”
I can see your hand everywhere in everything. The little birds chirping outside my window have risen early to worship you. I read your Word and see your plan, foretold and fulfilled, time and time again. It all makes me feel very small. This is the place I should always be, I suppose, in awe of your plan, bewildered by your methods, and anxious to see more. Thank you for including me in your plan. Thank you for continuing to teach me and for helping me to see that there is always more to learn.