Dallas had the camera on some crazy setting for this last picture.Â We were walking out of the park after watching the fireworks.Â The picture before shows Brooke during the fireworks.Â She was slightly terrified, but trying to hold it together.
All of this quarantining business left us with a need to get away from our house and have a change of scenery! My friend told me she just returned from Yellowstone and it was a great time to visit because it was less crowded than usual. I had never been to Yellowstone. Dallas and I did a little research, realized we had three completely empty days on the calendar that next week, and behold! A family vacation was born.
We packed up and headed out. Our first pit stop demanded a photo:
The drive was so fast and easy, and before we knew it, we were in West Yellowstone. We enjoyed this sign:
until finally…she erupted!
We decided to walk the boardwalk around Old Faithful. Caroline bit into a Starburst on the way and her loose tooth came right out mid-chew:
I loved this little hike. I’m not sure if it’s because it was the first thing we did, so everything was so new and amazing to see, but, well, everything was just so new and amazing to see! We loved looking at the geysers, trying to come up with our own names for them, and then running ahead to find the next wonder to behold.
Luckily for us, Old Faithful decided to erupt again about forty minutes before the predicted time, so we got to see another explosion from a less-crowded spot:
And we took turn-your-sister-into-a-rabbit pictures:
Then Brooke learned how to take creepy panoramic pictures and that kept her busy for the rest of the trip.
After Old Faithful we went to Black Sand Basin to see the geysers there. It was getting really stormy and we were afraid we were about to get dumped on. There was a nice rainbow geyser there that I liked.
We walked around quickly to see everything:
Then we ran to the car right before the heavens opened and rain, sleet, snow, and hail slammed down on us. It was a pretty impressive storm.
We were worried it would rain out the rest of our day, but before too long the rain cleared up and Madison spotted some elk. We stopped for a closer look.
We ate dinner at Lake Village and walked through a gift shop looking for treasures. None found.
Then we stopped at Mud Volcano and saw Dragon’s Mouth Spring which was a favorite. We loved the steam coming from the cave and the groaning noises that felt like a dragon did indeed live there.
On our way back to our hotel in West Yellowstone we stopped by the Artists Paintpots which was another favorite. We liked the white stew/soup spot that gurgled and bubbled and made us feel like an ogre lived beneath it.
At the hotel the kids loved playing with the old fashioned phone:
The next morning we decided to get up bright and early and drive out to Lamar Valley to look for wildlife. We saw lots of bison, elk, pronghorn, and birds.
We were mostly searching for a bear…and we found one!
After driving around Lamar Valley we went back to Mammoth Hot Springs for lunch.
We liked watching the elk that roamed through the little town. We explored the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. This was the hottest part of the hottest day that we were there and there were so. many. steps. so this wasn’t the most pleasant of all of our stops, but we made it through and this picture will give you the illusion that we all had smiles on our faces the whole time. I’m sure none of us complained one bit during this hike.
We found some rocks to climb:
We drove down to Norris and tried to stop, but that was the only place where we couldn’t immediately find parking, so we just continued on.
We went on to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. That was also beautiful. I loved how each part of Yellowstone was so different but so beautiful.
We loved the waterfall and did a couple different hikes to view it from different spots.
On our way back to the hotel, Dallas spied some cranes, so we stopped to look. (They’re behind Brooke right in front of the tree line.)
The next day was the day our kids were looking forward to the most – horseback riding day! We had to wait for our turn which gave the kids plenty of time to bond with the company’s pet dog:
And to walk on wood planks:
And to show off how Brooke can twist her leg in unnatural ways:
Finally we were able to hop on our horses and ride through the woods.
Brooke’s horse was a little stubborn, so her horse got roped up to the guide’s horse in front of her. This arrangement is important because it led to the highlight of Brooke’s vacation. The horse in front stopped to poop and somehow the rope got caught in the horse’s butt…? And the guide couldn’t get it out. So she had to call to the guide at the front of the line and ask if she had gloves. Which made that guide ask why she needed gloves. So the guide in the back had to say, “Because there’s a rope stuck in my horse’s butt and I can’t get it out. I’m going to need some help back here.” Which led to silence from the guide at the front until she said, “I was not expecting to hear that!”
Meanwhile Brooke giggled uncontrollably through the poor horse’s ordeal…and anytime afterward when she thinks about that story.
Luckily the guide was able to free the horse without compromising too much of his dignity and we were able to continue our ride.
Dallas’s horse also brought comic relief as he kept stopping to eat every chance he got and when he wasn’t eating, he was finding small trees to walk over to scratch his underside.
After horseback riding we were ready to head home. We decided to drive through Yellowstone and go home through the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole. This gave us the perfect chance to take these pictures:
We stopped at the Grand Prismatic Spring on our way out. The pictures of this spring look so pretty, but unfortunately, from the boardwalk, you can’t really see it. I was sad about that. Next time we go to Yellowstone we’ll have to hike from above so we can look down on it and appreciate the colors.
Dallas was amused by this poster every time we saw it, so we had to do our own version.
(To be clear – Caroline wasn’t really off the boardwalk. Dallas just Photoshopped her there. We were good tourists and stayed on the path.)
Our trip to Yellowstone was just the diversion we needed to break up the monotony of having nothing to do because of COVID. Dallas and I are already dreaming of when we can go back.
We took our annual trip to Carlsbad in October to visit my parents. This time we brought Dallas’s mom, Kathryn, with us. We had a great time!
We settled right in with baths and cheese balls.
We went to church:
After church we went to the Mormon Battalion Museum.
The good thing about vacationing with Oma is we could hug her whenever we wanted:
The kids drew adorable pictures. This is Spencer’s rendition of our blue van arriving at Grandma’s house:
Madison drew a fish and her with Grandma and Grandpa:
Caroline took her time and filled up her whole page with color as she did a cute palm tree:
Brooke was drawing some adorable animals. I remarked that I couldn’t believe how well she could draw without looking at anything for reference. I mean, I think I know what a pelican looks like…until I try to draw it and then I realize I have no idea about how its neck attaches to its body or what its tail looks like. We decided to have a pelican-drawing contest. The results ranged from impressive to ridiculous. Brooke drew the two pelicans at the top with the orange beaks. Going clockwise from there we have Caroline’s, my mom’s, mine, my dad’s, and Kathryn’s was the big blue one. My dad is good at a lot of things…but drawing pelicans may not be one of them.
He is, however, really good at making French toast every morning. Yum!
It was a super windy day, but the kids were dying to go to the beach, so we went and had a good time despite sand flying everywhere. Brooke directed this photo shoot before we left:
When we’d had it with the wind, we went home, had dinner, and begged Grandpa to pop us some popcorn while we watched a movie. He is good at popping popcorn. He gladly obliged.
The weather was perfect and there were no lines. It was great!
The kids made cars out of Legos for a big race.
Madison was the youngest racer in her heat, so we didn’t have high hopes, but we were all surprised and delighted to see that her Christmas tree car was the clear winner! Red ribbon for Madison!
I was dying to do the Ninjago ride. My parents have season passes to Legoland since they live five minutes away, and my mom and dad always ride this ride when they go. My mom ALWAYS beats my dad. She has some hidden ninja skills, so I was anxious to see if I could beat her. The answer – nope.
Dallas, however, also apparently has crazy ninja skills and he was able to get on the “Best of the Day” scoreboard…with my mom!
Madison was completely fearless. She loved the roller coasters best and insisted on riding with her arms up on every ride.
Our fairy tale Brooke:
Our tickets also got us into the aquarium. The kids enjoyed stamping their booklets:
The next day we went to the Fleet Science Museum. We went to two classes to learn about air pressure and static electricity:
As we were getting kicked out of the museum at the end of the day, my dad saw the lady at the concession stand throwing away buckets of popcorn. He asked if we could have one and she said yes! Turns out my dad’s also good at scoring free popcorn!
The Fleet Science Center is at Balboa Park, so we walked around the park a bit.
We ended our day at Golden Corral:
The next day we went to Point Loma tide pools. We got there at low tide, but the surf was still too high to see much. Oh well.
Then it was off to the beach once again:
We played a rousing game of Jenga.
Brooke added her own challenge by deciding to play using her feet:
We ditched the kids with pizza and a movie and the grown ups had a very nice meal at Benihana:
We also played Qwirkle after we put the kids to bed:
We found a fun park by my parents’ house and played. The kids and Kathryn collected twigs, acorns, seeds, leaves, thistles, and pinecones:
Then we decided to hit up the beach one more time:
This is Dallas blocking the sun from my eyes. If that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is.
All too soon it was time to say good-bye.
We had to give Grandma and Grandpa’s stuffed animals one last hug:
And we had to give Grandma and Grandpa one last hug:
We always love our trips to California. We were glad to bring Kathryn this time around and make some fun memories with her.
Our trip was drawing to a close. We wanted to spend one more day at the beach. Oceanside is so close and nice, so we went there again.
Brooke found this bird that wouldn’t move. Turns out if these birds are on the beach, they’re usually injured, so someone alerted the lifeguards. They came and scooped him up and took him to a wildlife refuge center. This is how you know you’ve had a successful day at the beach:The next day was Sunday. Elder Christofferson was coming to speak at a stake conference in my parents’ mission, so we went with them to go hear him speak. It was only 8:30 AM, but our week of fun had apparently exhausted Madison, so she used our drive as her nap time: We knew we’d need to get their early to get a seat, so after claiming a row we went outside to attempt family pictures again for the millionth time. After church we went back to the house for puzzles and dinner prep: I wanted a picture with just me and my parents. My kids had other ideas:
Boom! Got one!The two missionaries from Madagascar joined us for dinner. We talked to them all about the plague and about life in Madagascar. As they told us about the plague, I could feel my hypochondria kicking in. Was I feeling feverish? Did my stomach hurt? Were my lymph glands swelling?
Of course I wasn’t coming down with the bubonic plague. It was all in my head. Or so I continued to tell myself that night as we played Qwirkle and I couldn’t seem to get warm even though I was wrapped up in a blanket.
“I’m completely fine,” I told myself as I rifled through the candy cupboard and nothing looked appealing.
“I’m not getting sick,” I tried to convince myself as I lay down to go to sleep and my stomach started churning.
“Am I sick?” I wondered at 2:30 in the morning when I couldn’t sleep.
“I have the plague!” I thought at 3:30 AM when I ran to the bathroom…and then threw up.
After that I had a lot of time to think the rest of the night as I couldn’t go back to sleep. We were supposed to wake up bright and early to drive home. How could I drive for 12+ hours if I was dying of the Black Plague? But we couldn’t stay because chances are someone else would get sick and no way did I want kids barfing all over my parents’ beautiful mission home. Nor did I want to get my parents sick.
When it was time to get up and go, I actually felt okay. Maybe I wasn’t dying from the plague after all. Maybe we could make it home. We got all packed up. We said our good byes.
I grabbed some barf bags. We left.
An hour into our drive I received a text from my mom. We had forgotten something at their house. It would have been so fitting if we had forgotten Spencer’s shirts, but no! We had those three cheap shirts packed away safe and sound. Instead, the thing we forgot was our largest suitcase which contained all of my and Dallas’s clothes and shoes and trip supplies. How is it possible for two grown adults to be so horrible at keeping track of our stuff?!
We started to turn around to go back for the suitcase, but my parents forbade us from driving back and adding several more hours to our trip. They agreed to ship the suitcase to us. They are the best! Forever rescuing their children from their ineptitude.
It was at about this time that Dallas pulled off to the side of the road because I thought I was going to be sick again. False alarm.
I got back in the car and fell asleep. I woke up abruptly knowing that I was about to lose it, and this time for real. Dallas pulled over. I got out and was slapped in the face by a gust of wind. Wind! I had just enough presence of mind to quickly tie my hair back in a ponytail and position myself in such a way so that when I threw up the wind wouldn’t splash it back at me. I doubled over, retched, and watched my vomit take flight in the violent breeze. I felt sorry for the poor drivers and passengers who happened to pass us at just the right time to witness that picturesque scene.
Then I turned to the car and saw the horrified faces of my kids and husband and realized it was they who would likely be scarred for life by what they saw. Sorry, family. Not my finest moment.
The drive home was interminable. I just wanted to be able to hold still and lie down in a bed. The hours passed by so slowly. I never thought we’d make it. Finally, at long last, we arrived home. We unpacked the bare minimum and then I crashed in bed.
Miraculously, no one else got sick. How that is possible, I will never know. We were trapped in a car all day long breathing the same air and no one else got my germs. I am so grateful for that!
I knew I was feeling better when I felt like I had the energy to tackle cleaning up the car. Before:
And a very satisfying after:Look what arrived just as I was finishing the car – my suitcase!We had such a fun time on our trip! I’m so glad we were able to visit my parents. Hopefully we’ll be able to make it out at least one more time before they’re home!