The Summer of B’s . . . Bayfield, Boston & Bristol

Or we could just call this: How I spent my summer vacation.

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The toad outside the bath house at our Bayfield campground. Judging by the cabbage moth next to it, I may have interrupted its late night snack.

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The other Madeline Island ferry.

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Docking at Madeline Island. It’s a busy place in the summer.

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The Sunken Ships glass bottom boat tour out of Bayfield. The tour takes you over the top of two of the wrecks. The water clarity that day was amazing.

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Just one of the many lighthouses on Lake Superior. I believe this is the Raspberry Island Lighthouse.

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Bayfield at dusk.

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The Mayflower II; Plymouth, Massachussetts.

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Plymouth Rock.

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DH & BooBoo watching one of the reenactors at Plimoth Plantation split logs into boards.

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4th of July in Bristol, Rhode Island. Bristol is home to the oldest, continuous 4th of July celebration in the nation. 2015 marked the 230th year of the celebration. Our little hometown band marched in their parade.

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All branches of the military were represented, as well as the police, fire fighters, ambulance crews, etc.

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This float had “living sculptures”.

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A bit of noise and smoke from one of the parade groups.

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And here they are! Our hometown marching band. They are marching sans jackets due to the heat. Oh, and that flute in the front row . . . yes, that’s Ditty.

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One of the many plaques in Boston’s North End Garden. There is also a very moving memorial/tribute to the military personnel who lost their lives in the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan.

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There were lots of moon jellyfish in Boston Harbor.

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BooBoo & I at JFK Library & Museum. Yes, he’s just about as tall as I am, but my extra half inch of height doesn’t show up well in pictures.

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Boston Harbor Arch.

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The U.S.S. Constitution in dry dock for repairs and restoration. She’ll be high & dry until sometime in 2017, but they still allow tours of the ship now that she’s secure.

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The U.S.S. Cassin Young, also on display at the Navy shipyard.

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Clock tower. Boston.

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The catamaran we rode for our whale watch tour.

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The fort at Castle Island, from the top deck of the catamaran.

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Boston Harbor Light.

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Whales!

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Whales!

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and more Whales! It was so cool to see these giants up close. We saw Humpbacks, Finbacks and Minke whales.

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DH & BooBoo with the Elizabeth Montgomery statue in Salem, MA. Well, it is the “Witch Capital”.

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Salem also has Stickworks, a sculpture by the same gentleman who created a stick house sculpture garden at St. John’s University.

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And finally, a view of the sunrise over Fearing Pond; Myles Standish State Forest, Carver, MA.

I’m glad the rest of our summer travels will just be short weekend hops to camp with friends. This busy summer is going way too fast! Hope you have time to enjoy your summer.

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MPO (missing, presumed overwhelmed)

Wow! Have I really not posted a single update since last August? Well, the blog doesn’t lie. I certainly have been missing from this space for a long time. I’ll try to give you a concise update of the past several months.

Since the job loss last August, I was unemployed for a total of 6 weeks. That’s a very short time based on what some of my friends have experienced in their own lives. I took a job with an international provider of fulfillment services in October 2013. I was taking inbound customer service calls for a major sweepstakes company. I say was, because in mid-January, I became ill and then in February I began having dizzy spells again. I was diagnosed with Menier’s way back when I was about 22 years old, so dizzy spells are nothing new to me. In March, I had a dizzy spell at work on a Friday morning. The following Monday, I woke up at 1 a.m. with a dizzy spell and just thinking about going in to work the night before had triggered an episode that ultimately lasted about 9 hours. I knew that I needed to quit my job. My health wasn’t going to rebound until I did. So at 1:30 that Monday morning, I spoke with DH and broke the news. He took it well, saying “You have to do what you have to do.”. I knew he was disappointed, but that he understood the spells were beyond my control.

Understand that I have held several jobs since being diagnosed and the only common ground this job held with the one other job that I had quit due to dizzy spells was that both companies treated their employees like machines. The first company had unachievable standards for productivity. And I really mean that. We were expected to complete our assignments in 1 hour and then get the next hour’s work from our supervisor. No allowance for the time it took to stand in line with the rest of your shift waiting your turn for work was given. No allowance for the needed time to organize the work or pull the correct files was given either. Everyone (yes, we talked on breaks & lunches) was continually being given verbal or written warnings that they had better bring up their productivity or risk being terminated from employment. Ridiculous!

My recent past employer also maintained an atmosphere that made us feel like we were less than human. The 2 days that I was legitimately ill in January dropped my attendance rating from a 5 (highest given) to a 1 (lowest given without termination). The company HR department and my supervisor had both firmly stated that if we were ill, because we are a large call center, do not come in to work because it would just make more people ill and increase workloads for those not ill. And yet, they dock us for not coming in when we are sick. Yes, that rating of 1 on my attendance meant that although I had achieved the 25 cent/hour bonus pay for the 3 months prior, I was not eligible for that bonus for the month of January-due to my “poor” attendance. I was also informed that even if I had gone to the doctor and received a note stating that I was indeed ill, the note would not have taken effect until the day after I received it. I’m sorry, am I supposed to request that my cold/flu should give me 24 hours notice before taking me out? How absurd! Well the stress this brought on (and other issues there) triggered some lasting episodes of dizzy spells through February, culminating in the March episodes. This forced me to rethink my employment there and I went in the following Tuesday morning and told them I needed to quit and that I was sorry but I wouldn’t be able to give them the customary two weeks notice due to the unpredictable nature of the dizzy spells. I was kind. I blamed my illness, not the company, but I had to get out of there. Since leaving, I have had one full-fledged dizzy spell and many close calls, probably due to residual stress. I am praying that the month of April sees my return to good health.

During this time, last August, I also returned to being a catechist for a group of twelve 9th grade boys. You see, I can handle stress just fine 🙂 ! I’ve always enjoyed teaching and I do enjoy teaching this group of guys as well. I was informed (frequently!) that this group was difficult to work with and would try my patience. Good grief, they’re just boys! And unfortunately, the methodology used to teach them (lessons on video) does not work well with the learning style of boys. Nor does it impress upon them the need for a deep faith relationship with God. I understand why this method is being used. it is used because, unfortunately, we can not count on getting volunteers to step forward and teach who are faithfully Catholic. How sad that there were so many years in the formation of today’s adults where the beauty of our Catholic faith was not taught to us and so very few of us realized that we had an unfulfilled yearning for God and looked for that beauty later on in our lives. The early mistakes made in the implementation of Vatican II cost our churches dearly. I am grateful for the nudges that made me look deeper and deeper into my Catholic faith and it’s customs & rituals. Those nudges helped me to realize the beauty that lies within those sacred ceremonies. Thanks be to God!

Teaching the boys has been very rewarding. They have been open to trying new forms of prayer. They seem to have enjoyed some of our non-scripted discussions. I even brought in dessert as a treat for our last class before spring break and, true to their teenage years, they were quite enthusiastic about that as well. I’m thinking about trying the sung version of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy with them for two reasons: 1: I’ll bet no one has ever taught them the beauty of the chaplet and 2: Not one of them is in band (Ditty is and I never saw any of them at the concerts which are required attendance for band students) so they must have taken choir (9th grade is required to take one year of music class for high school graduation). Since I therefore have singers in my class, I say “Let’s get them singing!”. For their own comfort however, we will go down to the chapel for this part of the lesson so that they don’t have to sing (and risk being heard) by the other 9th grade boys class which meets across the hall from our room. Yes, I do take their feelings into account and I realize that they might not be ready yet to stand strong and proud in front of their peers as followers of Christ.

We had a nice Thanksgiving and a lovely Christmas. The kids enjoyed the break from school and I wished that I would have had more time off with them. (Wish granted, I guess.)

DH & I had a nice time at the ice fishing tournament in late January with our friends. Although that was when I suspected the dizzy spells were coming on. Kavanaugh’s was a nice time away for us.

We went to Florida this year for the kid’s spring break and all 5 of us were able to go making this the first real, total family vacation we have taken in about 6 or so years. It was a nice time even if it was a bit cold down there. And here’s a tip, if you’re looking for a really good seafood dinner: Go to George & Wendy’s Seafood Grille on Sanibel Island. They have the best fresh seafood items I have ever tasted!

Well, that brings you up to date, more or less on where my life is. I hope & pray your life is going well and that you enjoy a long life and happiness as well.

Back from the break

We officially arrived back from Spring Break on Easter Sunday night.  It was a fun and interesting trip this year. 

We had a great time in Florida.  The weather was beautiful with temperatures in the mid to upper 80’s every day.  We arrived on the Saturday night before Palm Sunday and got settled.  We went to Palm Sunday Mass the next morning and then after brunch, spent the rest of the day in the pool and playing cards with DH’s parents.

Monday saw us off on the first of our many adventures.  We went to the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) in Tampa.  It was a nice museum, but we missed the PA system used by our science museum.  MOSI doesn’t announce show & demonstration times so you have to pay close attention to the printed schedule they hand you.  We saw the Flying Monsters IMAX movie (or at least DH & the kids did-I was there but had my eyes closed for most of it as IMAX movies make me sick to my stomach with all the swooping motion).  We also did their SkyTrails ropes course.  BooBoo & I didn’t get very far on the course since both of us have an intense fear of heights.  Ditty went around the first, second and third levels.  DH went around on all four levels, though mostly just the top two.  He said one of the workers made ape noises after he crossed a particular line without using his hands and said “Right on! Now that’s how the real monkeys do it.”.  Guess he’s Tarzan and I’m just that Jane from the first movie, the one who screams every time she’s flung over Tarzan’s shoulder and swung through the trees.  Oh well.

On Tuesday, we went to Legoland.  It was very nice.  We went on a couple of rides.  I was fine on Island in the Sky, maybe because you sit back from the edge and it turns slowly.  Got some nice pictures from up there.  Lake Eloise is large and very pretty.  We took BooBoo with us on Coastersaurus.  Man, that boy can scream but he had fun on it too.  I don’t completely understand how I can like roller coasters and thoroughly despise ferris wheels.  I think it has something to do with the fact that once you’re at the top of the first hill on a coaster there’s nothing to stop you, whereas on a ferris wheel you are at the mercy of the ride operator and they can stop you at any point on the ride and leave you there for whatever length of time they want.  And I despise when the roller coaster operators stop the coaster I’m riding in on its way up the first hill because they mistimed the speed of the coaster in front of me.  While we were at Legoland, we went to a couple of shows as well and toured the old gardens of Cypress Gardens (yes, they kept those, including the old banyan tree).  The gardens provided a bit of peace and quiet during the hottest part of the day.  We stayed until just about closing time-the lines definitely get shorter after 3pm so it’s worth it to stick it out rather than leave early.  We didn’t go to the carillon concert at Bok Tower that night though-we were too wiped out for that.

On Wednesday we spent the day in Vero Beach.  We found a lovely public beach called Round Island Oceanfront Park and it was actually free to park there & use the beach.  Rare in FL as public beaches usually have some sort of fee.  And no, all the beaches in Florida aren’t open to the public so you do have to watch the signs.  This beach was very nice, clean, quiet and crowd-free.  There were a few families and some older couples there that day but not enough to be shoulder to shoulder.  And the beach had a life guard  (which is why I was surprised that we didn’t have a fee of any kind), this was nice as the surf was booming.  The flag was yellow though so we went out into the ocean.  Yes, me too even though I’m not fond of swimming.  I basically stayed close to BooBoo since he’s not a strong swimmer yet, just to make sure he didn’t get pulled out farther than he could handle.  This, of course, just made him braver and he went out farther than he has in the past-the little stinker.  But it was all fun and no sunburn.  We even saw three dolphins frolicking farther out from the beach.  DH came up and said he thought he saw a shark and did I think it was a shark.  Well, I’m sure there are sharks in the ocean, but to find one that close to shore I wasn’t so sure.  So we both scanned the water and when they came up again, we realized it was a dolphin, then not just one but two no three of them.  Really cool since we’ve never seen one outside of an aquarium before. Other families thanked us for pointing out the dolphins for them too. We left the beach for about 45 minutes to have lunch under one of the picnic shelters in the park.  Then back to the ocean for a last bit of swimming.

On Thursday, we made our way to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.  Yes, they’re the ones made famous by the movie “Dolphin Tale” even though we haven’t seen the movie yet.  I found them online and became entranced by their offer of a Sealife Safari Cruise on the Gulf of Mexico.  That was the main reason we went.  I booked our cruise for Thursday at 5pm on Sunday(which was the only time we could get in the whole week) and we explored the rest of the museum while we waited.  We saw two of the dolphin shows and a river otter show.  We also checked out the trolley ride and Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure (another museum with artifacts and still scenes from the movie).  We had lunch at a nearby pizza place-Leo’s Pizza & Bar.  If you like New York style pizza, thin crust & foldable, and real sausage, sliced not little balls, you’d like this place.  Even though my kids like thick crust pizza (poofy crust they call it), they ate this pizza with gusto.  Leo’s is a tiny little place so if you’re going, get there early-like by 11:30am. We had a nice time and the cruise was great.  Well, why wouldn’t it be?  A one and one-half hour boat ride on a beautiful day.  It wasn’t precisely the Gulf of Mexico, actually just a bay by the Gulf but one and one-half hours on a boat beats fighting your way through crowds any day.  When we got back, Ditty declared that we had not been out for an hour and a half and we had been shortchanged.  It took both DH & I to assure her, with back-up via the clocks on our cell phones & wristwatches that yes indeed we had been on the water for the full hour and a half.  Glad she enjoyed it so much that the time flew by for my 13 year old.

On Friday, DH & his dad went off for a round of golf while his mother, the kids & I went to Bok Gardens and a lunch at the little cafe on the grounds.  It was pretty in the gardens and the volunteers were hard at work getting things ready for the ecumenical early bird Easter Service scheduled for 6 am Easter Sunday.  When we got back to the house, the guys were back from golf and we decided to go to the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I’ll get photos posted soon as we saw sand hill cranes up close & personal (the cranes basically escorted us away from “their” area-nice & politely, no chasing), two male osprey eating, the osprey nests as well and a rather large alligator on the opposite side of the ditch while walking Gator Alley (only needed the zoom lens at half extension for that photo).

We attended Easter Sunday Mass in an unfamiliar church and it was, well, interesting.  Seemed like they had a parish wide ban on lipstick-I was one of only 2 women wearing any (glad I chose the CG Outlast that morning so it wouldn’t come off on the chalice).

Wish we would have made time for the Triduum Masses.  I missed that very much.  All in all though, we had a wonderful vacation and we were totally wiped out by the time we got back home Easter Sunday night.  Even DH didn’t insist on unpacking everything from the van-just the essentials.

And the best part – I lost 3 pounds while on vacation so my total weight loss so far is 20 pounds.

Yellowstone, the conclusion

The end of the trip was magical.  We found two of the formations I had seen 30 years ago as a young teen on a youth group camping trip.  The drive home was also beautiful.

On the final day of our stay in Yellowstone, Ditty and BooBoo were sworn in as Junior Rangers, having completed all of the program requirements.  We also found out about a Girl Scout & Cub/Boy Scout badge that they can earn.  It should be listed on the National Park Service webpage.  We’ll have to go check that out.

And yet there was still more to see.  Firehole Falls on the Firehole River.

With this bison on the path, it seemed like my wish to see two of the sights from my past trip would go unfullfilled.  But we managed to get safely around the big guy.  And saw this:

Fairy Falls.  In spite of the difficulty in finding it, the bison on the trail, having to remove my moccasins due to the very wet trail and the remarks of several other people  (“She doesn’t have the right shoes for hiking!”  I mean really!  Have you never walked in moccasins before?  They are totally the right shoes for me on a long trail, since comfort is key to my walking any distance.),  I was beginning to think I wasn’t meant to see this again.  Perseverance!  That’s my last word on it.

Oh look, more bison.  Thankfully, we were already here:

Imperial Basin.  When I was here 30 years ago, this was known as Imperial Geyser.  The name change didn’t help me in finding it again either.  Glad we did though.  Sometimes it’s nice to revisit an area to see if it still looks the same.  Fairy Falls did.  Imperial did not.  And I would have sworn there were boardwalks here thirty years ago, but either they took all the boardwalks out or my memory of the hike was confused with the many other hikes we did on that trip.

Grand Prismatic Spring.  Yes, it sure is!  This is one spot where the name truly fits the scene.

The drive home took us through Montana’s butte country,

and Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota’s Badlands,

Wild mustangs at Teddy Roosevelt National Park.  We didn’t go into the park itself, just flew by on the Interstate.  DH said that we need to make this park a vacation destination someday.  I agree, it would be another fun camping trip.

That’s all for our trip to Yellowstone.  If you can’t make it there yourself, www.windowsintowonderland.org does have e-fieldtrips appropriate for grades 5-8, ages 11-14 on their website.  One caveat though, they are not as thorough an experience of Yellowstone as we got by going there.  So make time for this trip.  You won’t regret it.

Yellowstone, Part 3 (with bears)

I know, this is beginning to bring back memories of the sequels that never end.  But I promise, it’s worth it. 

Gibbon Falls.

Part of the view along the Norris Geyser Basin.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

And the osprey nest we saw while there.  One of the parents had just brought food back to the chicks in this photo.

Yellowstone Lake on the east side of the park.  The water was colder than Lake Superior when we were there.  How do I know?  Because DH dared Ditty and BooBoo to wade out to a rock about 2 feet from shore.  Ditty then dared him to join them or be called a chicken.  Yes, he went out there too, then told me how cold it was.  I wasn’t about to go wading in any lake backed by a snow covered mountain.

More elk.  These beauties were the reason trails were closed to tourists in West Thumb while we were there.

Gee Frenchy, you keep complaining about the snow & the cold.  How deep was it?  Well, the top of this snowbank is taller than BooBoo & almost as tall as Ditty.  She’s 5’2″ at this time.  What a kick in the summer vacation.

Your sneak peak at this year’s Christmas card.  Yes, we do have a shot where BooBoo isn’t being goofy, but he prefers this one so that’s what we’ll be sending out.

And, the Kepler Cascades.  Now on to our day trip into Grand Teton National Park.  Shortly after crossing into the Tetons, we came across a mother grizzly & her cubs.  Those pictures require a zoom & crop session so I’ll share the ones we got in Yellowstone in this post instead.  We decided to hike the trail to Hidden Falls while in the Tetons and here’s what we saw.

The view on the Jenny Lake trail.

Yellow Bellied Marmots.  I know there’s only one in the photo, but they were numerous on our hike.  And they seem to love getting their picture taken.  This one posed for us.

Hidden Falls.  The perfect ending to a two and a half mile hike.

BooBoo clowning around with a marmot.  “Get my good side.”

DH, Ditty & BooBoo took an extra hike to a moose viewing area one mile from the Jenny Lake trailhead and saw this guy walk out near the end of their watch.

What a view!  And this was just a photo of the landscape from the Jenny Lake Visitor Center.

Exiting the Tetons after a lovely supper at Jackson Lake Lodge.  The fifth day of our stay in Yellowstone saw us:

Checking out Sheepeater Cliff.

Stopping to view a heard of elk on our way to Mammoth Hot Springs.

Seeing this lovely terraced formation on the trail at Mammoth Hot Springs.

Bison trotting down the street in Mammoth.  We crossed the street for this group.  The mama has a russet (the baby) and a two or three year old with her so we weren’t about to put our backs to the wall, just in case she got further agitated.

Elk on the side lawn of a house in Mammoth (zoom lens optional).  These elk were so close to the sidewalk that I really didn’t need the zoom lens for this shot.  I would never try to get close to large animals like this but we walked up the sidewalk and had to turn around to get the shot when we realized they were there.

Mountain goats on the ridge north of Mammoth.  We saw three or four of them.  This was the best picture though.

Yellowstone Arch at the north entrance of the park.  On the way back to our campground, we saw

One bear, no

two bears.

And the bison nearby.

Yellowstone Part 2

The first two of our six days in the park.

Mule deer.  I never understood why they were called mule deer until these three crossed the road in front of our van.  Of course, I’ve never seen their ears that upright before either.

A Uintas ground squirrel.  Didn’t need a zoom lens to get a picture of this little beggar at our picnic lunch stop.  Cute little rodent.

The view from our picnic spot.  We found that picnicking in the mountains in June can be a bit chilly.

What we saw on the drive up to our reserved campground.  More Snow.  We ended up having to transfer to a campground at a lower elevation to escape the snow.

Old Faithful geyser and the boardwalk full of tourists.

Old Faithful geyser from the backside.  We walked along the boardwalk trail at Old Faithful to get this shot of another eruption.  Without the tourists, it probably looks more like what the early trappers saw.

Castle geyser, also on the Old Faithful boardwalk.

Crested Pool.  Looks inviting, until you realize that the deposits along the outside are dissolved rock.  Explaining that to the kids made staying on the trails and boardwalks much easier.

Another deep blue pool. 

Sapphire Pool.  Certainly lives up to it’s name.

The mud pots around Yellowstone are always interesting.  The kids thought the dried mud at this one looked like a bird’s face.  What do you think?

But walking around to the opposite side, revealed that the poor bird has a monkey on his back. 🙂

The Hot Cascades.  Waterfalls of all sizes abound in Yellowstone.  This is definitely one of the smaller ones.

Not all of the bison had given birth yet with the spring thaw being delayed.  This one is dozing in the sun.  Ditty said she would have liked to keep sleeping too.

A pretty blue spouter.

The view from the top of the trail with the pretty blue spouter.

On another note, peace reigns in our house following the soccer tournaments this past weekend.  Both Ditty’s and BooBoo’s teams placed third, so there was none of the “my team’s better than yours” business.  And I’m glad that we no longer need to head to the soccer fields three times a week.

Have a great week.

Yellowstone, Part 1

Getting there is half the fun.  I don’t remember who first said this, but it’s so true. . . see for yourself.

A stop at the Sertoma Butterfly House in Sioux Falls SD yielded this shot.  One of the butterflies decided to hitch a ride on my hip rather than fly across the room.

Eventually I wanted to sit down, so I put the lazy butterfly on BooBoo’s arm instead.  Much to the delight of the boy.

This is just one of the many good pictures we got of the different moths & butterflies.  This is an Atlas moth.  It’s one of the biggest moths in the world.  To do the size justice, the photo would need to be quite a bit larger as the moth is the size of a man’s hand with fingers spread wide open.  And check out the tips of it’s wings. . . almost looks like snake faces, don’t they?

After spending the night in Spearfish, we headed into Wyoming and stopped at Devil’s Tower.  The kids didn’t remember seeing the Tower back in ’06.  Maybe they will remember this time.

Don’t you just love it when you’re entering mountain country and you can see the layers of mountains in the distance?  I know I do.

Entering the Beartooth Mountains.  Did I mention that crazy Lolita, our GPS, decided to take us on Hwy 14 instead of Hwy 16 to arrive at our second overnight spot?  Yeah, unless you’re an experienced mountain driver (or certifiably insane), I’d suggest overriding the GPS and taking Hwy 16.  DH was white knuckled due to lack of guard rails on this portion of the trip.

We stopped at Shell Falls in Bighorn National Forest for a supper break.  This was the view as we were getting back on the road.

Entering the Absaroka mountain range.

The first time you see elk on a trip is always exciting.

We stayed overnight at the KBarZ Guest Ranch our second night on the road and did a trail ride after breakfast the next morning.   The cabin suited our needs, the other guests were quite friendly and the folks who run the ranch were absolutely wonderful.  It was a very pleasant stay for us and I wished we could have stayed a bit longer.  They were having an archery shoot that weekend and I haven’t shot since college.  It would have been fun.  Hopefully we will get back there again someday.

 

With spending Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday at the the soccer fields this week, Ditty’s & BooBoo’s teams are both playing for 3rd place in their respective divisions tomorrow.  I’ll try to post the next installment of Yellowstone pics on Monday.

Enjoy your weekend!

Perfectly Preserved In Perpetuity

Friends, Romans, Countrymen

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Quotes:

"If you are what you should be you will set the whole world on fire."
St. Catherine of Sienna

I finally understand

"Among those around you, apostolic soul, you are the stone fallen into the lake. With your word and your example, you produce a first circle, and it another, and another, and another, wider each time. Now do you understand the greatness of your mission?" St. Josemarie Escriva: The Way