Amanda Hopper Writes

A writer's tale of living and working in the country.

Month: October 2012

Rehabilitation

So has the weekday TV-free-lifestyle changed my children’s desire to watch the big black box?
No. Well, a little.
But mostly…no.
They are tolerating the electronic void very well. Now the TV is not the first thing they run to when a free moment arises, but they can definitely still get lost in pixel-land.
For example, the TV came to life on a recent Tuesday evening and the boys arrived in the family room like flies to a picnic. They sat like zombies on the couch and waited for whatever their dad was offering.
They were probably hoping for a Star Trek re-run or the latest Doctor Who episode, but they got… the Presidential debate.
The moderator faced the camera and I counted in my head, one, two, three
But they didn’t leave. I stood behind them for the first thirty minutes and could not believe my eyes.
They were paying attention.  
Who could have expected such a result from our experiment? Who would have predicted that all a parent needed to get their child interested in politics was to refuse them TV unless it was political in nature?
Andy and I stayed quiet while Grant and Sam explained things to Ian when he looked bored. Like how we couldn’t afford to go to Harry Potter World because Obama was destroying the economy…
Close enough.
As I watched them, I slowly filled with pride realized that my work was done. I had accomplished my number one goal in raising my children. Andy and I have, in fact, succeeded in breeding little republicans. 

The New Normal

We learned a great lesson from our Yellowstone trip…and no it was not the infinite number of ways to die gruesomely.
O.K., so we walked away with two lessons.
The second one was surprising, are you ready?
We can survive without TV and Wii!
For those of you who are rolling your eyes… I’m not speaking to you. I am talking to the parents who have pushed away from the computer and are wringing their trembling hands.
Yes you.
I know what you are feeling. For so many years Andy and I were in survival mode. The place young parents go when they are outnumbered by hyper children and need TV to entertain their offspring for the day an hour.
But here at the Funny Farm, we have moved past the times of picking baby food out of our hair and freeing small superheros from the depths of the toilet cough*Sam*cough. We now have three school-age kids that hijack our evenings with homework and extracurriculars.
We prepared the kids for two weeks before the blackout. Their expressions the first day of school proved that they hadn’t believed we would actually do it: No electronics on school days unless they have to be used for studies while under strict supervision.
Sam almost had a nervous breakdown the first two days. Ian actually did. There were a lot of tears… a mourning period.
The second week was easier. By the third? No complaints.
Our boys have rediscovered reading for fun, board-games, tetherball, and the all-important imagination.
Now, the sounds that fill the house on weeknights are happy ones, not laugh-reels and complaints over ninja-style abduction of the remote. Andy and I also realized that most of the behavior issues we dealt with on a daily basis stemmed from kids ignoring us or their work due to TV. The most unexpected perk? The boys are much more eager to do their chores now.
I guess feeding cows is more fun than staring at math problems, right?

  

H. E. Double Hockey Sticks on Wheels

The final leg of our Yellowstone trip…
Have you ever looked at Colorado’s roads on a map? You might want to use a magnifying glass. Those teeny-tiny-isty-bitsy bracket marks that say pass and have numbers next to them? Those are not jokes. They mean screw it, we can’t get you through this enormous mountain so you’re just gonna have to go over it. Yeah, the tippy top.
Yes you with the 37 feet of motor vehicle.
Traversing Colorado west of I-25 is like being strapped into the Roller Coaster of Death.
Against your will.
We came home from this vacation two months ago. I needed that span of time to recover from the trauma that is Colorado with a travel trailer. Unfortunately that time has not erased the nightmares.
We traveled through the Flaming Gorge from Wyoming into Utah. Turns out, it’s called Flaming Gorge not because of the beautiful rock colors, but because of all the RV’s flying off into the depths.
Just kidding.
Sort of.
Gorgeous scenery. Rephrase. Gorgeous, terrifying scenery that I thought would be the worst leg of the trip. Nope.

Utah

Utah
Western Colorado. Sorry for the lack of pictures. Andy had to pry my hands off the armrests.

139 from Rangley, CO to Grand Junction, CO is worse. So bad that the lifeforms inside the vehicle were silent for two hours while Andy worked the van and trailer down the side of a mountain with several turn backs.
No one spoke.
Not even Sam.
The one time I dared look away from the road, I saw all three kids gripping their seats with white knuckles.
There were no guardrails and apparently the property belongs to a rancher who doesn’t believe in fences. Because every time we turned a corner, there was a cow on the road.
I don’t know how we made it, but Andy got us through. He wanted me to take pictures, but this is how every one of them turned out:

I couldn’t even look… so I covered my eyes and flung the camera out the window with my free hand and pushed the clicker.
Be thankful they’re right side up.
We made it to Grand Junction at nightfall. The next morning we completely changed our driving plans so that we drove I-70 from Grand Junction to Denver. Interstate driving should be easy right?
Wrong.
Two mountain passes. Vail Pass at over 10,600 feet and the Eisenhower Tunnel at over 11,100 feet. The problem? You have to down the mountains too. So you are trying to pull a trailer straight up from 6,000 feet to those pesky passes.
I’m a non-mechanical girl and even I know that heat and engines don’t mix.
Don’t misunderstand me. Colorado is beautiful.
In a little car with a big engine.
Needless to say, we stopped and kissed the dirt of Kansas when we reached her fantastic flat-as-a-pancake landscape.
Here is a map of our trip if you are crazy enough to follow in our footsteps:)

Yellowstone to Grand Teton

On day seven, we busted out early in the morning and made the 2 hour trip to Grand Teton National Park. Two hours seems like a long time to travel to adjacent parks, but Yellowstone encompasses 2.2 million acres. Most of the park is unexplored, or forgotten if once found.
My buffalo comment from the last blog makes more sense now, hun?
Grand Teton is made up of “only” 330,000 acres, but offers breathtaking views. From every direction you see the jagged snow-capped mountains reflected in the crystal-clear waters of Jackson Lake.
We stayed at the Colter Bay Village and ate dinner the first night at Leek’s Pizzeria. The restaurant sits on a marina with a picturesque view of the lake and mountains and serves incredible pizza on their outdoor deck.
Our second day in Grand Teton began with a chuck wagon breakfast. Two beautiful Percheron horses named Daisy and Diva pulled us, and families from New York, Boston and The Netherlands, on a two-hour-long wagon ride.

Strangely, as the Texans, we were the ones everyone was curious about. The families wanted to know if everyone in Texas carried a gun, were overjoyed when they learned we actually owned cows, and were flabbergasted that our son shot guns for sport in 4-H.
Daisy and wagon.

We ate eggs, biscuits, sausage, and pancakes with the Tetons for a backdrop and barely missed the daily visit from the local grizzly bear who also likes to be fed by the cooks.

Breakfast view, obscured a little by smoke from wildfires.

Ian engaging in a little pre-breakfast mischief. He’s plugging the hibernation holes of whistle pigs.

A little while later, we made the drive to Jenny Lake to catch a ferry to the beginning of the trail to Hidden Falls. When we arrived, park rangers walked around with their hands readied on their bear spray and we found out that several bears had been sighted near the visitor’s center and on the trails. Andy grudgingly bought bear spray and we set off across the lake.

View from the ferry.

Turns out, we didn’t need bear spray ’cause we have Sam. We instructed him to make noise along the trail… and he did.
Constantly.
For three hours, he sang, whistled and talked.
Needless to say, we never saw a bear.
The trail to Hidden Falls is relatively steep and rough. We made it up to the falls fine, but Sam decided to descend the mountain on his face. You can imagine the horrified looks on people’s faces when they spied a bloody and bruised Sam climbing back down the trail and they learned they were only halfway to their destination.

Hidden Falls

Andy learned a good lesson too.
Never yell at a child who is too close to the edge of a steep drop-off.
His warning sent Ian skidding to a stop on rocks that refused to yield. Thankfully Andy was close enough to catch him before he plummeted off the side of the cliff.
Good times.