Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fast Fall Flashback

I know... it is December & fall is done.  I think I'm still running 3 weeks behind ever since our big summer road trip... I've just never gotten caught back up.  So in my world, it is still kind of fall!  So here is a quick recap of the things I've neglected to post the past couple months...

Gram always does a nice fall display out by the gate.  This year it was adorned with pumpkins that Grandpa grew in one of the gardens.  We've gotten a picture of the kids every year... it is fun to see how they've grown & also how Gram's display changes from year to year...

2006 Brandon (almost 3) & Melanie (5 months)

2007 - Melanie (17 months) & Brandon (3.5)

2008 - Melanie (2) & Brandon (4.5)

This fall, Melanie informed me that it was the twins' (Lil, aka Honey, & Phil) birthday, so we had to throw them a little party.  She was so excited & spent the day making them gifts & then we planned a fun meal/party for them.  Oh what fun it is to be 5!

We had a gorgeous fall... a nice, long one with great weather.  So we tried to take advantage of it & got out on one last fall bike ride.
We headed to the Lanesboro area & hit the Root River trail to do some biking & geocaching.

We even hopped off the bikes for a little hike around an area to collect a few caches. It couldn't have been even nicer.

The kids picked pumpkins from Grandpa's pumpkin patch & spent some time coming up with ideas for their design.  Melanie seemed to be inspired by Brandon's, so they ended up looking quite similar! 

Halloween is full of fun...from class parties (Brandon, above, with a few classmates) to Trunk or Treats (Melanie, below, with friends Audrey & Clara) & Halloween fun around town... it ended up being a 4-day event this year...

Of course there was Trick-or-Treating on the actual day for our young Jedi & our Ballerina Kitty... 

We had a relatively mild Halloween temperature-wise, for Minnesota standards & that made for trick-or-treating fun with friends!

In early November, the guys headed out on the annual deer hunt & they were fortunate to have had nice, mild temps for deer hunting!  One of the benefits of hunting on our farm is the availability of the tractor once the deer is out of the woods.  Ever since they were little, the kids have liked helping Grandpa drive the tractor!

With deer hunting out of the way & nice fall weather, Mike & the kids hit the woods for some squirrel hunting.  The kids take their BB guns along... unfortunately, with all the chatter (mainly of the little sister), they didn't see a single squirrel this time but they had fun anyway!

We had an exciting "arrival" this fall as well...
A PIANO!!!  It came all the way from my mom's house in ABQ to us.  The kids were beyond excited... 
 Brandon plays non-stop & has quite a Christmas repertoire all ready for the holidays.  Now we need to look into "real" lessons for them as up until now, I've been teaching them.

Brandon & Melanie are in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) school option that started this year in Winona.  All grades (K-4) did a unit on Monarch butterflies.  In November, they rounded it out by hosting a Monarch Fair where we were able to see the projects each grade worked on.
 The 2nd grade had to make a project to design some sort of defense mechanism to protect the caterpillar or butterfly in the event one of the monarch's natural defenses fails.  Brandon gave his caterpillar radar to help it find enemies & food.

The Kindergarteners each made a book.  They illustrated all the pages & types the words to go with it... it was quite the undertaking for these kids but after a lot of hours spent on it, they got it done!  Melanie's was on the life cycle of the Monarch.

We enjoyed getting to see all the projects the kids did in all the grades!

And with that, November was almost over which meant Thanksgiving was upon us!  We hosted our first Thanksgiving in the new house (since we weren't in last year in time for it)... but sadly, no wild turkey for us even with all the birds we saw over winter.  They were rather elusive this spring when turkey hunting was going on!  Oh well... we had a fabulous turkey anyway!

We had a beautiful Thanksgiving day... warm enough for a nice hike after dinner & before dessert! 

Of course, for our kids... their favorite part of any family event is getting to see their cousin Allison!  They have a lot of fun with her!!

And now that fall is caught up... we can move onto winter & Christmas!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wrapping up our Road Trip (3rd & final week, finally!)

After saying goodbye to Chris & Teresa, we started our journey west.  On our way to Yellowstone, we made a stop at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, the site of old volcanic activity with old lava flows, craters, lava tubes, etc.
Brandon by a couple splatter cones

Through the lava tube we go!

Melanie & I stopped for a little rest inside a lava tube that we hiked through.  The kids really liked the area & had fun exploring.  It is definitely worth a couple hour stop-over if you ever find yourself in the area!

After leaving Craters of the Moon, we had a few more hours to Yellowstone.  We got there by evening, got camp set up & were ready to head out exploring the next morning.
Our first stop was a sulphur spring... the kids plugged their noses the whole time!

It was drizzly on & off, but that didn't keep us from exploring the Artist Paint Pots area!  There were lots of cools springs & bubbling mud pots.

We took another walk around the Norris Geyser basin since the clouds finally cleared...

Then we took a scenic drive as we headed towards Mammoth Hot Springs area. 

(Kids by the Liberty Cap)
On our way back, we stopped to gather some firewood.  Kids love helping out & with wood running $7 a small bundle, it is a quick & easy activity that allows us to not have to conserve wood because we like big fires!

Our big wooly buddy we passed along the way.  Maybe because it was fall, but we didn't as many animals as I recalled from trips of long ago... but we were usually there in early summer.
The next day we headed to Old Faithful area but first we stopped at the Lower Geyser Basin to walk around & got to catch Fountain Geyser erupting.

After a few other stops, we made it to the Old Faithful area & were taking in a ranger talk waiting for Old Faithful's next eruption when the ranger let us know that Beehive was about to erupt... it is not predictable & is much taller, so we scurried over to catch since we knew we'd be able to catch Old Faithful later.
Beehive erupting

We continued our walk around the Upper Geyser Basin (starting & Old Faithful) & also got to see Riverside Geyser (above & to the right) erupting.

As a kid, Morning Glory was my favorite pool... it is sad to see how faded it has become over the years due in part to all the garbage people threw into it over the years.

The kids did a lot of walking & had fun looking at all the different pools & geysers.

There was a breeze with this geyser, so Mike was getting a cool mist while standing there!

We finished our walk just in time to catch the last eruption of Old Faithful before they shut it off for the night. ;-)

As we made our way back to camp before dark, we made one last stop at Biscuit Basin.  The light was fading, so the colors of the pools were hard to see.

For a change of scenery, we decided to head to the Grand Tetons for a day... it was only a 1.5 hour drive, so why not!?!
Just getting into Grand Tetons Nat'l Park... nice view!

After a stop at the ranger station to ask for advice on a good hike for our limited time, we headed to Jenny Lake to take the ferry across & do a nice hike.  I remembered doing the same thing when I was a kid!

We went the opposite way of everyone else getting off the boat, plus we wanted a longer hike so we headed up Cascade Canyon.
 It was a gorgeous day & a good hike... & a nice change of scenery from Yellowstone.

We found a nice spot to cool our feet & hang out before turning back & heading towards Inspiration Point & Hidden Falls... the area where everyone else went straight from the boat.  Melanie did a little wading while Mike & Brandon skipped rocks. 

A nice view of Jenny Lake from Inspiration Point

Hidden Falls

As we left the falls & headed for the dock, we got to see a mama bear with her cub trying to cross the stream.  There were quite a few of us on the trail, so she was a little wary of all the people & quickly turned & scampered back up the hill.  The kids thought it was really neat to see them.  We ended up doing about 6.5 miles on our hike... kids did great once again!

The kids worked hard on their ranger book for Tetons as they really wanted their badge.  1 of the requirements for it was to go to a ranger talk... not easy to do if you are there for <1 day.  We did find one at the end of the day that we were able to take in... it was a critter creature talk on river otters.  It was interesting & they got their ranger badge. 
  Our added bonus was getting to see this big bull moose as we were leaving the area where our talk was... we had been looking for moose earlier, so that was cool!

On our last day, we took in the canyon to check out the falls.

We took in several of the hikes, so we could see some of the different vantage points of the falls.. very nice!  After we finished the canyon, we slowly mad our way out of Yellowstone & started our trek east for home.  We were staying in Greybull, WY for the night... so we got in about 8.

At our KOA (yes, another kamper kabin for the kids), they tipped us off on a nearby site to see... Dinosaur Tracksite.  So the next morning, we made the very slight detour to check it out... well worth it!  It is an area where there are actual dinoaur tracks that were captured in the mud. 
Walking with the dinosaurs...
the tracks are to be of something similar to a velociraptor...

There was a "wall" next to the area that had layers in it, one of which had tons of "sea" fossils in it.  The volunteer lady told us we could dig a few out... they are called "Devil's toenails" & are the fossil of a prehistoric oyster of sorts.  The kids thought that was really cool... one of the best stops we made!
And with that, our journey ended... we drove the next day & a half to get home. Over 5400 miles in all & over 100 hours in the car... it was a fabulous trip!