Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Pick a party

With the invitations piling up on my desk, I looked at the calendar for a date to hold the girls' graduation party. Our weekends were packed. Most week days didn't look great either. We talked about holding a party during the week. 

We were driving through Yellowstone when I brought up the question again. I explained that with their busy schedule, we were looking at a graduation party in late-July or early-August. The girls always have a birthday party. I said they could either have a graduation party or a birthday party since we were not going to have two parties so close together.

After a bit of debate, they decided to have a birthday party. I told them we'd go out to dinner with the family to celebrate their graduation, so we weren't going to completely let it pass without a party. 

A few weeks later we were talking about their graduation dinner when the brunette twin asked about inviting friends. I explained that she and her sister decided to have a birthday party rather than a big graduation party. She seemed surprised that we talked about this during our vacation.

Dinner was delicious and the girls were spoiled with presents. It was a low-key end to elementary school, with the promise of a big birthday party to come.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Our time in the Boise International Airport ends in tears

It was so easy to rent our vehicle in Spokane and so hard to return it in Boise. By the time we finally returned the vehicle, we were tired and hungry. It had been a long drive from West Yellowstone to Boise. At this point, we were tired of long drives.

The airline counter clerk was delightful. We checked our luggage and headed to lunch. After a quick lunch -- during which we all charged our devices -- we headed towards the gate.

It was chaos at the gate. A flight to Denver had mechanical problems. It was cancelled. The customer service staff had long lines of annoyed people. Many people would have to spend the night in Boise. Many people were going to miss their connecting flights. And then there were the unaccompanied minors.

There were five or six teens talking to airline staff at the gate. They were travelling from camp together to Denver where some would stay and others would catch connecting flights. The staff was trying to figure out what to do with these kids. They couldn't stay in hotels by themselves overnight. They couldn't get them all on the next flight to Denver. 

I was thinking about what we would do if the girls were in that situation when I walked back to the Boise Public Library outpost. The girls were there charging their devices and talking with friends. As I walked into the space, the blond twin looked at me with tears in her eyes. A friend's father had died suddenly. He was only 44 years old. The brunette twin looked shocked. 

We spent some time talking about what happened and how to comfort their friend. We boarded the plane knowing that there were certain to be some hard days ahead. It was certainly not the ending we planned for our wonderful vacation. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Yellowstone National Park

The drive between Glacier and Yellowstone was long. We knew it was going to be a long day, so we didn't schedule anything except the drive. Once we arrived in West Yellowstone, though, Daddy and I couldn't wait to explore.

We moved into our hotel room (and with all the stuff we have, it really is like moving) before taking off to explore. The girls were quite happy to stay in the hotel's gaming room. 

The hotel was really close to the park's gates. We were excited to be so close to the park. It wasn't until we entered the park and saw the map that we realized we weren't all that close. Oh, we were close to the gate, but the things we wanted to see were a drive away. About 30 minutes after we entered the park, we arrived at our first stop.

Yellowstone National Park is known for its geysers. A guide said it was the second most active geyser site after New Zealand. The geysers were really cool. From the Old Faithful spectacle to the smaller steaming sites, geysers lived up to the billing.

What we found really fascinating were the other natural wonders. From paint pots to hot springs to the colorful pools, everything had this strange, other-worldly quality. The geysers sent up smelly steam filled with sulfur. It created a hard, white crust on the ground around each geyser. This crust was almost a chalky color. In places the crust extended for miles. It was a really interesting and spooky effect.

We traveled both the upper and lower loops. The two sides were quite different. The one side had amazing geysers, paint pots and hot springs everywhere. The other side had more wildlife, waterfalls, a gorgeous canyon and a super volcano. 

We saw different wildlife quite a bit closer than we expected. We always kept a safe distance, despite our fascination. We didn't even have to work hard to find wildlife. We would be driving from one place to another when we would see cars parked along the road. This was a sure sign that something was there. We saw several male Elks, buffalo herds, foxes, wolves, mule deer and more. 

What didn't we see? Bears. We drove through multiple states and two national parks where bear training was shared at every turn. We never saw a bear. 

Yellowstone was everything we hoped and more. From the beautiful hot springs with stunning colors to the fabulous buffalo herds, we made memories for a lifetime. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Glacier National Park

We try to plan a vacation as soon as the girls are out of school. Their school year ends just before Memorial Day, which is earlier than most school districts. This gives us a small window to vacation while things are still relatively off-season. 

We talked about going to Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park last year. We were doing a little research when we came across a pop-up window saying that reservations for 2018 were available for all in-park hotels. We quickly discovered that all the hotels were booked -- a year in advance. We made reservations at hotels outside the park as soon as we could to make sure we had places to sleep. 

After a day in Spokane, we drove to the park's west entrance. We put on our hiking boots and headed into the park. Our first views were very pretty. We couldn't wait to start seeing the wildlife advertised in all the brochures, except the bears. We wanted to see a bear with the same intensity that we were afraid to see a bear. 

Our scheduled horseback ride was a disaster. It was pouring rain that morning. I called the stable, and they reminded me that they rode in all weather. When they said "all weather," it didn't occur to me that they would ride in a rainstorm. By the time we were on the horses and heading towards the trail, the rain slowed. It stopped for a few minutes and we thought that the ride might improve. We were wrong. It started hailing. It was loud when the hail hit our helmets. We were soaked to the bone. It was cold. We were scheduled for a two hour ride, but when the guide offered to end the ride at one hour, we jumped at the chance.

We spent the next two days on Glacier's east side. It was stunning at every turn. We took a boat ride at Two Medicine lake and hiked to a few waterfalls. We saw some mountain goats way up on the mountain. We heard interesting stories. We went to St. Mary's Lake for more hiking. It was stunning at every turn. We couldn't believe how beautiful the entire day was more than we imagined. 

Our final day found us Many Glacier Lakes. We arrived early to enjoy the gorgeous surroundings. For days we had a running joke about how I wanted to see a moose. Daddy came into the gift store and said, "There's a moose and her baby that hang out near the hotel." I thought he was kidding until we went outside and saw the moose across the lake. 

We boarded our boat tour, which was quite different from the previous tour. On this tour, we started on one lake, hiked about 1/2 mile and boarded a boat on a second lake. Knowing that it our last day at Glacier, we savored every moment. The tour guides were terrific story tellers. The scenery was breathtaking at every turn. 

As we returned to the first lake to head back at the end of our tour, my moose returned. She swam across the lake, walking out of the water near a camping ground. We didn't see her after that, but I like to imagine she walked through the camp ground shocking and delighting campers. It was a perfect ending to our trip, which shocked and delighted us at every turn.

Friday, June 1, 2018

And then it was over

The last week of school was a whirlwind. The girls spent one day cleaning out lockers, returning school equipment and signing yearbooks. 

We spent weeks planning for the Eight Grade Dance. I took the girls dress shopping one Saturday. I was so excited when we entered the mall. What was better than taking my babies dress shopping? After four hours and too many stores, I was thinking off all the things I'd rather spend time doing. 

The blond twin found her dress first. It was a two piece outfit with a sequined top and a pink satin skater skirt. She decided to wear gym shoes with it. She told me that the girls decided to wear gym shoes. 

The brunette twin found her dress after trying on dozens and dozens of ball gowns. The brunette had a clear vision for her Eight Grade Dance dress. She wanted a long gown. By the time she was done, she had a beautiful, colorful mermaid gown with sparkly pumps. She declined to wear her tiara, though. 

As we stood outside the school watching all the students arrive, we marveled at how grown up they were. We knew some of these kids since they were in preschool. It was so much fun to see them in their awkward, nearly-grown, teenage phase wearing their dance outfits. The girls were more formal than the boys, who tended towards dress pants, dress shirts and interesting ties. 

The next day they went to Six Flags. The eighth grade trip was something they talked about the entire year. They spent hours talking about which roller coasters to ride in which order. They plotted a course that let them ride everything they wanted. The girls came home giddy and hungry and tired. The day was a smashing success.

They went from Six Flags to graduation day. They went to their soon-to-be high school just to practice the ceremony. We returned several hours later to watch them cross the stage. It took about an hour from start to finish. The class stood up, moved their tassels to the other side of their caps and it was over. They were graduates ready to embark on their high school adventures.