Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Beautiful Eyes

Participating today in the photography challenge at iheartfaces. The prompt is "Beautiful Eyes." Everywhere I go with my children, people comment on their eyes. They are beautiful -- blue, clear, vibrant. I can be a little bias, however.

I, also, have blue eyes. Growing up this was a singular and unusual trait . . . both of my parents and my sibling had brown eyes. It felt special to be unique in this way. It created some amusement; however, when I began to repeat as a toddler the facetious story that I "got my blue eyes form the mail man." :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Love Affair with Queen Anne's Lace

Love, love, love the delicate, mysterious beauty of these "weeds." I love the shape of this flower, and the delicate, graceful stems. And how it curls in on itself, like long fingers, to hold the seeds, ready to be blown by the wind.

We took the kiddos for a bike ride on a railroad converted to paved path. These are what caught and held my attention. What has captured yours recently?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Yellowstone Park -- Further Adventures

 There's so much to tell in trying to recount our family adventure of two weeks . . . it's a little overwhelming! My intention is to create a photo book of the trip and blogging is my dry run in telling the story. I'm so glad that before we left, I created a separate photo file for the trip and then organized my photos by the day taken. It has created a timeline that I can refer to when I begin to get a little fuzzy on the details.

We met up with my parents, Nana and Papa, at the West Entrance to Yellowstone Park. We had thought we wouldn't meet until we arrived at the camp site so it was a pleasant surprise to share lunch at Buffalo Bill's and then drive in together. Big D had already been on the look out for Buffalo and he was gravely disappointed when they didn't magically appear immediately upon entering the park. He had to wait a whole day before his first siting. And we had to hear much talk, winging and whining about it until he did!

The first evening was perfect! Sunny, warm and dry. We set up camp and the kids ran around collecting and making stuff. Big D made a bow and arrow that actually worked. It was his pride and joy. We learned all about bears. Two quite recent news stories about attacks/encounters in the park had us adults on high alert. We were advised that all food, cosmetics, food containers and water bottles would need to be secured in our vehicles unless immediately in use. This made meal prep and our daily treks into the park an adventure. That and the mosquitoes were the only downside to a truly lovely camping experience.

 Just as we were preparing to make smores that first night, we had a doozy of a thunder and lightening storm. It was truly impressive! We laid in our tens and listened to the thunder roll around the mountain tops. Powerful. Fortunately, we stayed dry and by noon the next day, we had sun again. In the above pics you can see the tent drying out and the family huddled around the fire waiting for the sun to warm the camp.
 Before we left on our trip, the kids and I decided that they would keep journals of their adventures. As we traveled, we collected stickers and they took pictures with their own cameras so that they could add them to the notebooks. They kids also worked on their Junior Ranger badges -- as Big D is in the picture above. They were given a newspaper with activities and assignments. When finished, they were to talk to a Ranger, take a pledge and the receive their badge. Serious business, folks!

 A drippy start to the day as we checked out the Paint Pots. Kids were good sports and, like I said above, by noon it was warm and sunny. Just in time for Old Faithful.

 Big D was determined to get a shot just as Old Faithful erupted. He stayed poised and ready for 15 minutes before hand. Then when it "blew," he was upset that maybe he wasn't getting the "just right" picture. Poor little man. Mama tried to tell him to relax and enjoy the moment. Plenty of pictures were being taken and I promised we'd share!

 The landscape is so unusual and frankly, stark at times and lush at others. I can only imagine what it would have been like to stumble into this valley years ago. We were respectful of the wildness of the place and horrified to see other visitors rather carelessly move through the park. My dad had been reading a book about the accidents and deaths that have occurred in the park -- the vast majority out of a lack of respect and understanding of both the animals that live here and the natural phenomenon. Falling through the thin crust into boiling hot springs, approaching wildly unpredictable buffalo . . .

 Photos make look like close ups be trust me, respectful distance maintained! My uncle lent me his super huge telephoto which was an adventure in itself! We saw a staggering array of wildlife throughout the trip: buffalo, grizzlies, elk, prong horn, beaver, bald eagle, osprey -- to name a few.
Big D chilling in the rockers in front of the General Store -- already fantasizing about that evening's smores and campfire. Good times!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Epic Road Trip -- The beginning

Our trip actually started, as all mommies know, with weeks of planning and days of packing. This was made even more memorable by losing my voice completely in the 24 hours before departure. Relying heavily on whistling and sign language, the kids and I finished up the grocery shopping, laundry and packing before daddy got home from work. His forte is loading the car. A feat requiring fantastic spatial skills and patience if every last inch of cargo space is to be utilized! 

Day 1 of actual travel dawned bright and sunny . . . as evidenced by the pained expressions in the above picture! You'd think they hadn't seen sun in days and were in danger of going up in a poof of smoke. What truly sealed the deal was that just as I was setting up the tripod for the below pictures, the sprinklers went off. Wish I'd caught the kiddos shocked and injured expressions.

 After our "before" pictures, we hit the road, making tracks for Kettle Falls, WA, a mere 10 hours drive. Kids were fantastic as they were for most of the 3,000+ miles. Big D read, Little Sis was primarily self-entertained and on occasion, we were called upon to redirect their restless energy. Rest stops were mandatory opportunities to try the toilet and stretch your legs. Little Sis cracked me up. Never failed that she would energetically deny the need to use the bathroom, fume all the way into the stall and then whisper that, turns out, she really needs to go. It was a revelation to her each time!
 We made such fantastic time that we arrived at Great Grandma's house in the mid afternoon. It was frustrating to not be able to talk with her and I relied heavily on hubby to "translate" my whispers into communication she could hear. She has not been well for some time and this may be the last visit we have with her. It is so hard to see loved ones grow old and tired. She clearly enjoyed the children and treating them to Drumstick ice-cream cones.

 We took the ice-creams outside in order to spare the house and to get some photos. The kids and daddy had a great time followed by some running around in the yard, playing tag. Grandma sat at the front window and most certainly enjoyed the spectacle.

 Kettle Falls is a rural community located about 40 miles south of the Canadian border. Such beautiful country and it holds a great deal of memories for me. I've been traveling to grandma's house since I was Little Sis's age. I know the roads and landmarks well. It'll be heartbreaking when there is no longer a reason to travel those roads again . . .

The children were sweet and attentive to grandma and she so enjoyed them. It was a good start to our adventure, setting the tone for creating family memories and togetherness.

Next stop, Yellow Stone! We're just getting started . . .

Friday, August 5, 2011

Every Day Things

 Thank goodness for Shutter Sisters! I'm not sure I'd ever get the pics from our trip blogged without their prompts the last two days. Today's theme is "every day things." Certainly the expected highlights of our trip were the wildlife but while "hunting" the elusive creatures of the wild, I found my eye drawn to these images. I imagine they are "weeds" and "pests" to most but since they don't live in my backyard, they are beautiful!
 I love the delicate curling lines and the feather softness of the "fluff." Wish I was more well-versed in plant parts so I can better describe what I find so alluring!
This last was a capture on the side of the road at Custer State Park in Montana. We stopped just for this flower . . . if you've been to such a place where people expect to see some amazing animal around each bend, you'll remember how people pull over just to see what you might be seeing! Kinda made me giggle. :)

I hope to tell the story of the "epic road trip" in the next couple of days. It was such a amazing experience as only a family trip across five states and 3,000 miles can be!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Golden Light

We're home! Two weeks and over 3,000 miles later, we have safely returned and begun to settle into our routines. I have so much to share but in response to today's Shutter Sister's prompt, I had to share perhaps my favorite pic of the trip. It was taken on Flat Head Lake, Montana while riding in my Uncle's boat. It was certainly a new photographic challenge to try to capture birds in flight while standing in a bobbing boat! This is a beautiful bald eagle that we first spotted perched on a snag. As we got closer and the angle of the lens changed, I was thrilled to see how the light changed, the flare, the color. It makes my heart happy!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

4th Festivities and Excitement

We had quite the day yesterday! Began by attending a local parade with one of Big D's friend's families.   The parade was excellent. The drama wasn't. But first, let me tell you how beautiful the day was! Sunny, warm and a light breeze. Couldn't have custom ordered better weather. Now the drama . . .
Like most parades, no doubt, folks had "reserved" prime sidewalk turf the day before with tape and chalk. We knew this and weren't concerned. We figured that we'd find a place to stand and watch as we hadn't planned any further ahead. When we arrived, the other family had set up chairs on the sidewalk and we joined them on the curb. Little did we know that they had taken over part of another family's spot . . . a large, aggressive family, it turns out. This woman approached us and began swearing and insisting we had to leave. The mom responded that she would go find a police officer to solve the conflict at which point the other woman said she'd "assault" her in front of the officer. Hmm. I decided that this kind of language and animosity was not part of our family's parade plans and we quickly moved to the back. We watched from our perch on a lovely embankment (we had a great view, by the way) as the two women and the police officer "discussed" the difficulty. Once he left, the other woman's family essentially surrounded our acquaintances and made all manner of snide comments. They scared the children. Clearly their goal was intimidation. It felt unsafe to me and unnecessary.
 Our little family made the best of it, enjoying the parade. Big D was tearful as he wanted to hang out with his buddy but eventually the other family joined us. I don't know why they didn't do it sooner! No point in "saving face" when you are in the wrong and your children are scared!
After a lovely lunch at home and a nap, the kiddos played in the sprinklers in the backyard. It was a little chilly in the breeze so that didn't last too long . . . but long enough to snap some fun pics!

We barbecued lots of veggies -- butternut squash, peppers, beets, onions and tofu. Yum! We ate them with millet and a homemade dressing. Then we had our own little fireworks show in the driveway.

The kiddos were super jazzed. Lots of oohs and ahs . . . our neighbors went crazy with massive firecrackers that went on until 11:00pm. Little Sis fell right asleep and wasn't bothered at all by the noise. Big D, on the other hand, had a tough time and ended up in our bed until it quieted down.
It was a wonderful day. Full of variety and fun. Each year gets better and better, as the children are able to enjoy more of the festivities.

How was your day?