Thursday, April 23, 2009

Earth Day

I celebrated by finally cleaning up all those old tires in my yard.

No need to thank me, just doing my part.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

From the vault

"I'm a swinger, baby!"

Thursday, April 09, 2009

And the topic is "Stupid things rich idiots say"

I've been working on multi-entity, multi-state tax returns for about a week for a new client. This client engaged us because his last beancounter botched his returns and he got into hot water with the taxing authorities. Before he engaged us he emphasized, "I want it done right, no shortcuts. I realize it will be expensive but you have a reputation for being thorough and doing good work which is why I want you to do it. I'm going out of town on April 12th, if you can have the returns done before then I'd appreciate it."

The project was extremely complex and his supporting documentation was subpar. There were times I wished he hadn't engaged us. Nonetheless, I was able to finish the project last night (ahead of schedule!) . This morning he came into the office to sign the returns and get them into the mail. Upon seeing the stack of returns he exclaimed, "Holy *bleep*! What is all that?" I explained that the various entities each had multi-state filing requirements and failure to file would eventually subject him to the same problems he encountered with his prior CPA. He was visibly annoyed. After signing the last return he stood up and tossed the pen on the table. As he put on his jacket to leave he said, "You know, I don't think all those returns are really necessary, I hope you're not planning to bill me for them."

Has anyone seen my gun?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chasing butterflies

I spoke to Donna a short while ago and I asked, "what are the boys doing?" Turns out it's the time of year when the monarch butterflies make their migration north and the boys are running around the front yard trying to catch them. Probably sounds silly but one of my fondest memories from when they were little (2 years old or so) was chasing butterflies with them. It was a year of an extraordinary migration and they were thick as flies at a fertilizer factory. We collected them by the dozens.

But not today. Here I sit, looking longingly out the window and wish that I was chasing butterflies. *sigh*

Friday, December 05, 2008

Advice on women

There's a little girl, Faith, in Jack and Joe's class. Joe has had it bad for Faith since the first day of school last year. And when I say he has it bad, I mean bad. We bumped into her at the school's carnival back in October and it was all he could do to say "hi" to her without throwing up all over himself. Poor lad, he inherited his father's skillz when it comes to dazzling the ladies.

Jack is a different guy altogether. He's got no problem chatting up just about any girl he comes across. At first I thought Jack simply believed that girls are just soft boys but I was wrong. He knows the difference and interacts with them on a totally different level. The kid has a confidence that just will not quit. If I could bottle that I could take over the world in a day.

Last night, an hour or so after putting the boys to bed, I wandered down the hall and found this drawing on the floor next to Joe's bed. To fully appreciate this drawing you must click it so you can see the detail...
At first I thought Joe had written it and I had a difficult time containing my laughter. But when Donna saw it she said, "This is Jack's book, I think he wrote it." Which made it a lot less funny because I'm not going to put up with him clowning on his brother over such a subject. So this morning I took Jack aside and asked, "Did you draw this?" He didn't get his usual guilty grin when he's been caught doing something he knows is wrong and simply replied, "yeah". I started to lecture him about making fun of his brother and hurting his feelings when he interrupted me and said, "Dad, I wasn't making fun of him, I was trying to help. How's he gonna learn if I don't help him?" My reply? "Touche, son."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


(clicky for biggerness)
I realize this year has been very lean blog-wise. It's not that good, blogworthy stuff hasn't happened to me it's just that I've been busy. And anybody that blogs will tell you that lots of times you have to just be motivated to blog. Over the past year...
  • I watched my sons step onto the field at Dodger stadium, their image projected on the jumbotron, and heard the crowd go wild as they said, "It's time for Dodger baseball!"
  • I went snowmobiling in Mammoth with my family, Mema and Mike & Melissa.
  • I went with Donna and the boys to visit Nana & Papa in Georgia where we were absolutely spoiled.
  • I watched, teary-eyed as my son was wheeled into a surgical room and then I sat for what seemed like an eternity and forced myself to not think what life would be like without him.
  • I spent 5 days in Mammoth with Donna, Jack & Joe fishing, napping, hiking, laughing.
  • I walked with my sons to within 20 feet of a beautiful 5x5 buck.
  • I did a major overhaul of the bedrooms to give Joe his own Dodger room and Jack his own hunting room.
  • I took both boys with me to Arizona to shoot dove and we had the time of our lives.
  • I celebrated 12 years of being married to the only one I could ever love and the only one that could ever love me.
  • I took a fishing trip with my old best buddy that I hadn't seen in 6 years.
  • I went on my first ever duck hunting trip and actually enjoyed it, in spite of nearly drowning.
  • I watched Joe take the field and strike out 3 straight batters on 11 pitches, come back the next inning and strike out 2 more on 7 straight pitches and then proceed to bean the next 3 batters loading the bases. And when his teammates gagged an easy force out to end the inning on the next batter I watched as he kept his cool and got his team out of the inning by striking out his next victim with 3 pitches.
All that stuff happened and a whole bunch more. But what I had to share was this precious note from my son. It was totally unsolicited, I just happened to find it on my bed next to my pillow. And now here I sit feeling totally unworthy of the gift of being Daddy to two very special little boys and husband to an amazing wife and I find myself saying, "Lord, I am thankful for You are my Father."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Full of hopes and dreams

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2007 Part III, the wrap-up

By popular demand (Steve, you’re popular!)…

Here we go, the end of 2007. I’m going to breeze through this relatively quickly because I have some neat stuff in 2008 to share and really, you’re probably not all that interested anyway.

So it was the beginning of October and we were invited by some good friends to join them at their cabin in Big Bear for the annual Troutfest. Since their kids are home schooled they planned to stop at Riley Farms in Oak Glen to take in the Revolutionary War Adventure. They graciously invited us to accompany them. When Donna first mentioned it to me I wasn’t all that wild about the idea but I figured “when in Rome” so I agreed. I couldn’t have been happier that I decided as I did. That was one of the neatest experiences I’ve ever had. If you haven’t been I highly recommend it. You WILL leave with a greater appreciation of your freedom and the price paid by others for it. Some pics of the experience.

I’m thinking of building one of these in the backyard for extracurricular learnin’ by the young’uns when they misbehave.

This guy was amazing, never breaking from character the entire time we were there.

This man is the owner/operator. He clearly sees this as more than a job, he sees it as a calling. Amazing man.

After our Revolutionary adventure we drove up to Big Bear. It was COLD. The wind was blowing and big, dark clouds came in. By 5:00 it was snowing. I’d like to remind you that this was the beginning of October. And since it was the beginning of October and we were in California we were not prepared for snow.

The next morning we rose early and got to the dock and boarded our iceberg, er… ice-covered pontoon boat. Did I mention it was cold? The clouds had moved out and left sparkling clear skies in their wake but it was still blisteringly cold. We cruised to the west end and anchored up. Notice the “smoke on the water” in the background. And the red noses in the foreground.

After an hour or so we had no suspects in custody so we tried another spot. Jack drew first blood for the men.

The ladies weren’t far behind.

Awhile later Pat landed a real hawg but I didn’t get any pictures. Sorry Pat, I’m a loser. After a little more time Jack caught another, Joe got one, I caught a little dink and then we called it a day.

Day number two was fairly uneventful fishing-wise but we did pretty good at the raffle. Jack and Joe both won kid tackle boxes with fishing goodies inside. I won a tackle box (with goodies inside) and a subscription to Western Outdoor News. I was especially happy about the WON subscription. I love to read that thing but I’m just too cheap to spring for a subscription to it (it’s like 40 bucks a year!). Knowing how much I loved it, Sally always got a subscription for me for Christmas. When I opened the envelope and saw the certificate I said to Donna, “Sally’s up in heaven pulling strings for me.” I miss that lady.

October brought Halloween:

November brought a new roof. American Cemwood, a POX on your house! Hey, wanna see what 20 grand looks like?


Not too impressive, is it?

December brought a day pheasant hunting with the boys and Cabela. Cabela has had no formal training but that dog has the skillz. She locked onto an area and wouldn’t leave it, no matter how much I hollered at her. Suddenly she zeroed onto a scrub bush that the boys and I had walked right by several times. She started digging at it and out popped big rooster. I let it get a bit out and dumped it. She was on it before it even hit the ground and brought it back to me. Good dog!

Later that day Donna & I went to drop the boys at my mom’s house. The plan was for us to meet some friends for a date night out. But when I walked into the house… surprise! Donna and my mom had put together a surprise party for my 40th birthday. It’s a little bit creepy walking into a house with a bunch of your friends and family (unexpectedly) standing there yelling something at you. My first thought – “Is this an intervention? I’ll go on a diet, I promise.” It was a great party and some friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time (even since high school) made it.

Party people

Check out this cake - shotguns & rifles to spell out my name. Awesome.

Later that month, as most red-blooded Americans do, we got ready to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. This includes spending a small fortune on a tree that barely fits inside our house. Yowzer, this year's was a big'un.

You know, I've gotten a lot of great presents over the years but He is by far the best present I’ve ever gotten. Here’s a few pics from His party.

Granny doin' her thing.My favorite Little Gal with her new dolly.
Jack & Joe with their first real noisemaker.

A week or so later we rocked in the New Year by going to Kiko’s house and feeding our tapeworms. I actually don’t think we rocked in the new year. If I recall correctly, we snored it in because, well, I’m 40 now and I’m old.

Stay tuned for some great stuff in 2008.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

You should be so lucky.

I haven’t blogged in awhile even though there has been plenty of neat stuff to share. I plan to get caught up in the next couple weeks. But in the meantime I had to share this special moment…

Yesterday was the first official day of summer, at least as far as the boys are concerned. No school for three months! After climbing out of bed yesterday morning Donna made her way down the hall to the kitchen. She was turned back by Jack who told her, “We’re bringing you breakfast, go back to bed.” Since we’ve been out of town for a week and the cupboards are pretty bare we waited nervously, wondering what was in store for us. Watermelon with relish? Cornflakes with ranch dressing? It turned out to be pretty darn good. Juice, cereal and toast (in massive quantities). To see them walk into our room carrying a tray full of their labors, smiling ear to ear was a wonderful gift. After handing a tray to me Jack raced to the kitchen and returned with a “bouquet of flowers”. See the picture below. Picked fresh from our backyard. And yes, that’s a tomato in there. I love my boys.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Is there an end to this week? This day?

Is it just me or is this the longest day in the history of mankind? And then, as an added knee to the nutz I just realized that it's only Tuesday, not Wednesday. Like a highway in the desert this seems to drag on forever and ever and ever.

I just have to keep reminding myself I have this to look forward to...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

He is risen!

You are more than what we can sing
You are God and nothing we bring
Is fit for a King
So, search us and know deep in our souls
We praise You

You are infinite worth
When we’ve not the words
Our hearts will sing
We are here on the earth
And somehow we ‘re heard
When our hearts sing to You

You are more than words on our lips
We are poor, with nothing to give
But, we want to bring
More than the song we sing to praise You, we praise You

You are infinite worth
When we’ve not the words
Our hearts will sing
We are here on the earth
And somehow we ‘re heard
When our hearts sing to You

It’s You we engage
It’s You we embrace
When our hearts sing

You are infinite worth
When we’ve not the words
Our hearts will sing
We are here on the earth
And somehow we ‘re heard
When our hearts sing to You

Friday, February 29, 2008

I didn't write this but I could have...

A couple was lying in bed one evening, when the misses felt her husband begin to fondle her in ways he hadn't in quite some time.

It almost tickled as his fingers started at her neck, and then began moving down past the small of her back.

He then caressed her shoulders and neck, slowly worked his hand down over her breasts, stopping just over her lower stomach.

He then proceeded to place his hand on her left inner arm, caressed past the side of her breast again, working down her side, passed gently over her buttock and down her leg to her calf.

Then, he proceeded up her inner thigh, stopping just at the uppermost portion of her leg.

He continued in the same manner on her right side, then suddenly stopped, rolled over and became silent.

As she had become quite aroused by this caressing, she asked in a loving voice, "Honey, that was wonderful. Why did you stop?"

"I found the remote," he mumbled.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

2007, Installment II

Here’s installment II and it’s not as soon as I’d hoped but I’ve been busy so don’t gimme a hard time. Since we returned from our roadtrip early we decided to hit the beach for a day. After nearly 3 weeks of 100+ degree heat it was a little bit of heaven to sit on the shore in 75 degree weather with an ocean breeze in our faces. I napped, the boys played in the surf, Donna read a magazine. Sweet.A family visiting from Kansas had laid their blanket out next to us and the lady kept trying to make small talk with me while a couple of their kids played in the water. I don’t really like people in general and I really don’t like small talk with people I don't know, even when I’m not trying to nap. I was wracking my brain for a way to distract her so I could move to the other side of Donna and get back to nappin’. As the woman droned on about their long drive to California I was thinking of a painless way to kill myself (gnaw through my wrists?) when I noticed a school of dolphins had come close to the shore.
I seized this golden opportunity and began shrieking, “Sharks! Sharks! They’re in close! Run! Save your kids while you can! Hurry! They’ll be eaten for sure! Do something!” The woman and her husband jumped to their feet and raced to the water, dragging their kids to the safety of the shore while I made my move to the safety of the other side of Donna, where sweet slumber awaited me.

Next came VBS week and that was fun but it was a lot of work and we were tired so
the following weekend we hooked up the pop-up trailer and met Mike & Melissa up at Emma Wood for a couple nights of beach camping. It’s not really an ideal camping spot for the boys because it’s too rocky for their tastes but there’s something about going to sleep to the sound of crashing waves. Mike & Melissa

Here's me with my favorite little gal in the whole world, enjoying the morning on the beach.

At the beginning of August I set out on the annual “guys only” fishing trip to Mammoth. In the past a slew of guys went and it was a blast. This year the usual suspects fagged out for one reason or another – work, lack of work, mommy wouldn’t let them, whatever. So it was just me and Dean this year. I have to say, outside of the year Jason went I think this was the most fun trip in the 6 years of the trip’s history. There was zero pressure to do anything, I didn’t hassle planning a menu & grocery shopping (we just bought food in town), there was plenty of room to sleep and plenty of room to fish. And Dean is just an easygoing guy. The fishing was excellent, I scored limits both days. We slept in till 10:00 each morning, we took naps, had great conversation around the campfire, I spent time in the Word. It was just incredibly recharging.

At the end of August school kicked off yet again. First grade, these boys are growing like weeds. Time really flies.
This year Donna was asked to serve as the vice president of the PTF. She’s incredibly gifted in this area so she took the position. And it’s a pain in the neck sometimes but on the upside I get to call her “The VP” and I’m technically “Mr. Vice President”. Which is nice.

At the end of the first week of school Jack and I traveled to Arizona for the dove opener (as usual). The heat was oppressive which translated to excellent hunting. We got down there early and scouted our spot. It was a great spot, there were a TON of birds in the area. So the next morning we rose extra early and raced to the area. We parked the truck and looked at the clock. It read something ridiculous like 3:30 in the morning. Take a close look at that clock.

So we sat in the truck running the air conditioning and guarded our spot, prepared to jump out and defend it with extreme prejudice if necessary. Turns out it wasn’t necessary, we didn’t see another soul the whole time. The shooting was fast and furious, we were dumping birds left and right. The Eurasian Collared doves were in abundance so we knocked down a total of 10 birds before succumbing to the heat.
We retreated to the air conditioned sanctuary of the Super 8 for showers, naps, and pay-per-view movies.
I took this picture because it just reminded me how he's my little boy... and I know someday he'll think I'm a dummy but right now he wants to do everything like me, right down to lining up his boots the same as mine. I wish I was half the man he thinks I am. Around 3:00 Jack began prodding me, “Daddy, c’mon!! Let’s go hunting!!” I tried to tell him it was too early and too hot but he wouldn’t budge so we got dressed and went down to the truck. I can’t really explain how bloody hot it was. I have an outdoor thermometer on my truck that has a max reading of 122 degrees and the thing was pegged. As we drove through town I was looking for any excuse to delay so we pulled into Dairy Queen and I bought him an ice cream cone. I was pleased to see him take his time with it. But eventually he was done and we were forced to brave the heat. After a short drive we arrived at an alfalfa field where we’d had good luck in the past. We took our position along an irrigation canal and waited. As I had anticipated we were too early and it was too hot. I don’t recall ever being so hot in all my life. I was pouring ice water over both our heads and it wasn’t doing a thing. Now Jack is a die-hard hunter and he’s not going to complain about anything but I could look at him and tell he was miserable. When he said, “It sure is hot, isn’t it Daddy?” I knew he was struggling so I said, “Yeah, let’s get out of here.” It was obviously the right choice because he didn’t protest one word. We got into the truck and cooled off in the air conditioning and cruised the area. After an hour or so we found a field that we nicknamed “The Mother Lode.” The birds were thick as flies at a fertilizer factory. We didn’t give a rat’s fanny about the heat as we dropped bird after bird. I was one bird short of my limit when I looked over at Jack and noticed that he was doing his best impression of Bob the Tomato from VeggieTales fame.

His face was a deep red and he looked miserable. It actually frightened me. I quickly cased my gun and began pouring ice water over his head and body. Within a couple minutes he cooled down and was back to his old self. But rather than risk anything happening to my favorite hunting partner we just rolled back to the hotel where we cleaned the birds and took showers. We had an early dinner and then turned in early (we actually fell asleep watching The Sandlot). We learned our lesson from the day before and slept in a bit. We arrived at our spot just a few minutes before legal shooting time and got ready for another stellar day of shooting dove. We were not disappointed as they bombed in on us from all angles. By 7:30 our limit was in the bag and we were on our way back to the motel.
We got home from Blythe around 2:00 and it was still blazing in the valley. We had already made plans for a Labor Day swim party at our house and as fun as it sounded in the planning stages.... I was just freakin' tired and didn't want a house full of people. But they came anyway and it turned out to be plenty of fun. I have pictures of Dean in various stages of slumber on my furniture but I'll spare you the ugly details.

Later that month we took the trip to Independence with Dean and his kids. It's in the archives so feel free to dig it out. I'll just post this picture like any proud daddy would.
That takes us through September 30th. It's late and I'm tired else I'd keep going. I'll have the remaining 3 months up in a week. If it's not a week, it'll be two. Relax, it's not like you have anything better to do with your life.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Better late than never, the year 2007 in review. - Part ONE

I’ve had a pretty severe blogging dryspell but I’m hoping to make up for it here. It’s the year in review, so sit back and get caught up on what’s happening in the lives of the jetsetting Hogskins. And remember, click on any picture for biggerness.

In January we celebrated Donna and Melissa’s birthdays. Look at this woman. I love her.

We had dinner at Mema’s, chicken casserole. My tapeworm was in heaven. Here’s birthday girl number 2 with her other half and Joey. It’s always nice to remind her that she’s 2 years older than me. Booyah!

Here’s my favorite little girl with her Daddy. She’s not really that small (and her daddy’s head isn’t really that big) it’s just the camera angle. This kid is awesome, I smile whenever I think about her.

February rolled around and Donna went away for a scrapbooking weekend. We had guy time so we threw a couple guns into the truck and headed for the hills. Jack and Joe decided they wanted to shoot a big buck so I gave them my rifle and told them to meet me back at the truck in a couple hours and I’d help them skin it out. Apparently their deer hunting skills are on par with their father’s because they came back empty handed.

The end of February brought opening day. They’re in the big leagues now, hitting balls from a pitching machine.

The boys celebrated 6 years of me not making good on my pledge to drown them if they didn’t buck up and behave by having a pirate/puppy party. Again, Donna threw a great party. I’m undeserving of that woman.

About this time I went underground and didn’t really surface for about 6 weeks due to tax season hell. This one was the worst in my 15 year career. I hated it. I considered going back to modeling. Donna seized on the opportunity to take the boys camping with Danny & Mary & kids to Leo Carillo. Judging by the pictures they had a great time. I wasn’t bitter that they were camping at the beach while I was doing taxes. Really, I wasn’t. Not that much, anyway.
For my Sioux Falls pal that come March will be enjoying a daytime high temperature of -3 take a look at this.
I know the way things are going someday you'll be governor or king or president or whatever it is you freezing crazies have but doesn't this make you want to move back here just a little?

Look at these two, a couple non-tax return preparing creeps if I ever saw any. Like I said, I’m not bitter.
Easter Sunday was kind of a bummer this year. The night before Joe was up to the wee hours empyting his innards via his mouth onto the hallway carpet. The next morning he sat on the couch and navigated his brother to the treats that the easter bunny had left him.

Eventually he decided, “This is for suckers, I’m gettin’ my own loot.”

I stayed home from church with Joe while Donna and Jack attended services. At some point he felt better, at least well enough to go to Mema’s house for the outdoor egg hunt. Looks like he’s feeling better, doesn’t it?

Here’s my favorite niece sporting the latest in fashionable headgear.

I can’t remember if I mentioned it but this tax season really sucked. So I decided to take the boys on a little weekend camping trip. The trip served dual purposes – besides the camping it gave Donna a little “me time”, something she hadn’t had in about 8 or 10 weeks. We went to Cachuma with Dean and his boys for a couple nights. We rode bikes, told guy jokes, scratched ourselves, fished. It was pretty much heavenly. Joe landed this hawg on the first evening.

Turns out it was the only fish to be caught. I cooked it up for Sunday’s dinner when we got home. Joe kept reminding us that he was the only one to catch a fish. “Isn’t this a good-tasting fish I caught?” “Aren’t you glad I caught this fish, because you guys didn’t and if I hadn’t caught this fish we wouldn’t have anything to eat?” “Isn’t this a good fish?” It was a big fish and a tasty fish but he was still a punk for reminding us like that.

At the end of May Joey participated in the school’s talent show. He did a demo of “stack ‘ems” in front of the whole school. I couldn’t get out of work but I watched the video of it. He was the only kindergartener to perform. I was so proud of him, he was clearly petrified but he choked it back and did great.

June came quick and we attended my nephew Ian’s wedding. Though I have a strict policy of not attending weddings there was no getting out of this one. Especially after I bagged on the last one. And I kinda wanted to go because I like Ian. So we went. It was a surprisingly good time and I was glad I went. But don’t tell my wife.

Alright, brace yourself because this is a long one. This is the vacation we’ve wanted to do for years but there was always one reason or another we didn’t. It was the mother of all roadtrips and months & months of planning went into it. The itinerary was planned with exactness, there was no varying. Except for when your wife is doubled over in pain two days before you’re supposed to leave. My wife is tough and this was no ordinary bellyache, this was something special. After much poking, prodding, imaging and hemming & hawing they said “You’ve got diver-something or other and you should cancel your trip. Today is Thursday. Take these pills. If you’re not better by Monday go to the emergency.” On Sunday (the day we were supposed to leave) she said, “I feel better, let’s go tomorrow morning.” Then she fired up her van to go do an errand and it sounded like a cat was caught in the fan belt. “Lord, are you telling me not to go on this trip because if You are, just come right out and say it by blowing up the engine because I don’t need this kind of stress.” The next morning the dealer took the car in pronto and had it back to us in a couple hours. We looked at each other and said, “Let’s do this thang” and loaded up. Within an hour the house was in the rear-view mirror and we were on our way. It’s kind of a creepy feeling leaving your house like that for three weeks. Fortunately I had Dean to check on it and mitigate any major catastrophe like a busted pipe flooding my living room. So we were on the road about noon and we drove straight through to Salt Lake City stopping just long enough for fast food in Vegas and to stretch our legs at a UT rest stop.

It was a marathon driving session. After 11 hours we rolled into Salt Lake and crashed at the Embassy Suites. We were dead on our feet.We slept so soundly that we didn’t move until about 10:00 and we missed the stellar breakfast we’d heard about so hit McDonald’s (I’ve started a petition to make it a felony to call that swill food) and then got on the road. Within a few hours we were in Idaho. This is about as much as we saw of it.

By early afternoon we were on the edge of Wyoming, looking over the Jackson Hole area. To say it is beautiful is an understatement.

We got down into the town of Jackson and went to the park with the four antler arches. They’re pretty darn cool.

But the town of Jackson (in my opinion) is a total tourist trap and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. The traffic rivals the worst I’ve ever seen (since I drive the 405/101 everyday that should tell you something). There was a bunch of shops where you can pay $20,000 for a blanket or a picture frame or “I {heart} Jackson Hole” t-shirt but that assumes that you can find a parking space. We crept through town and finally made it north to our destination, the Flagg Ranch Resort.

The place is really nice, individual cabins about the property which is located in between the Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. It’s nice because we were central to a lot of different stuff. We stayed there a handful of nights, making day trips to the Grand Teton park and into Yellowstone. We went to Jackson Lake, hiked to waterfalls, saw various critters up close. It was cool. Here we are at Jackson Lake watching a school of trout. Antelope

Two moose (mooses? meese? meeses?) The boys at a waterfall we hiked to. With the Tetons in the background

One day we stopped at a lakeside pizza place for dinner. We sat on the deck, ate pizza and just had a great time.We had just gotten back to the car and were heading back to our cabin when my stomach began turning over. I knew I needed a bathroom but I figured making it back to the cabin was doable. But the thing about these national parks is that they are HUGE and to preserve their national parkiness they are not littered with gas stations or rest stops or stores. Or bathrooms. When we were about 20 minutes away from the restaurant I realized that we still had about 30 miles until we were back at our cabin. And did I mention that the speed limit is 40 mph to keep you from running over the abundance of wildlife? The situation was getting terminal - squirming in the seat, sweaty upper lip, gurgling noises from my gut when a campground magically appeared. I tore into that place and found the only toilet for 30 miles. Thank God it was empty because I'd have pulled anybody short of the good Lord Himself off of that throne.

That night I didn't sleep well and I started to have some kind of worry attack. We were far away from home in the middle of freaking nowhere (which was the point of the story above, not to regale you with tales of my digestive gymnastics) and I just got this uneasy feeling that something bad was about to happen. The next morning the boys were up first, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I was sitting on the edge of the bed with the camera in my lap and Jack walked up and stood in front of me with this big silly grin on his face. He didn't have a care in the world, it was like he knew that if anything happened his daddy would take care of it. I snapped a picture but I can still remember his expression without it.

At that moment I felt the Lord saying, "You need to have faith in Me the way this boy has faith in you." And I'm not some hocus-pocus type of Christian, I can only recall the Lord speaking to me in such a way one other time but I felt this total peace cover me and I just felt completely content and safe. It was a turning point for me. That day was a good one, we made a trip into Yellowstone and saw a lot of neat stuff.

Like this elk...And this incredible waterfall... We made our way over to see Old Faithful.Outside of Old Faithful, there is not a ton else to see at this location. There's a whole bunch of these...

They're little holes in the ground with bubbling mineral water that smells like somebody put my old football jock & a full baby diaper into a blender and ran it for a good five minutes.

Later that day we were back at the cabin for a wrestling match which ended up with one mild concussion when Jack fell off the bed and hit his head on the nightstand. I told Donna it probably could have been prevented if she had just said, "Knock it off!" but she didn't. She rebutted that she was screaming it the whole time, loud enough that the neighbors stopped what they were doing but we all know that my delicate little flower isn't capable of raising her voice like that.

The next morning we rose early and took a scenic float trip down the Snake River.

It was really cool. We shared the raft with these two 65+ year old English ladies who were a delight. They were very knowledgeable about birds and waterfowl, telling us in detail about each specie we saw.

At one point we were cruising along and I said, "Say, isn't that a bald eagle up there?"
The English ladies clasped their hands together and said, "Well DONE, Mr. Hogskin!" (say it aloud in an English accent, it's pretty funny).

Later that day we loaded up for our drive east to Cody. On the way we spotted this bull moose in a river...

I'd never been to Cody and only heard that it was a one horse town. What I heard was right. But it was one of the neatest places I've ever been, I suppose it just suits my redneck personality. I wouldn't want to live there but it's a great place to visit. We stayed at the Cody Legacy Inn (owned by Buffalo Bill Cody's grand-niece or somebody vaguely related). Couldn't have asked for a nicer place. The town is rich in history and character. Every year at that time they have a major rodeo invitational. We went to it both nights we were there and it was a blast.

There's a shop/mini-museum in town that has a miniature model of the history of the state. And I know you're thinking "lame" but it was actually pretty cool. I know what you're going to ask and the answer is "No, I didn't go to the Buffalo Bill Museum" because we ran out of time. And I was crushed about it but at least I now have a good reason to return. I did however hit the local fireworks store and did some damage. Donna & Joe were trying to harsh our mellow but Jack & I ignored them and went on a major spending spree. We bought a large assortment of felonious favors for the impending 4th of July.

The next day we headed east to South Dakota and traveled through the prettiest country I'd ever seen. There were deep green meadows that went as far as the eye could see and there wasn't a soul around. Heavenly.
It was a very, very long drive but we finally arrived in...
We stayed at the K-Bar S Lodge and we had this view from our deck...
Which was nice. As excited as I was to see Mt. Rushmore I was more excited to see our friends Jason, Tracy and kids. We got settled in, fed our tapeworms, and then went to the monument.

Jason, being an artist and a history buff was a wealth of info about the monument and its history. He might consider adding "docent" to the myriad jobs he's doing right now.
The next day we visited a mine. The history of this area is rich and to see what some of these people went through in their quest for wealth is impressive. And crazy.

Safety briefing...You get to wear a helmet that's been warn by about 500 other people which is no problem for a germphobe like myself. I had the willies pretty much the whole time wondering what kind of yet undiscovered parasites were leaping from this stylish yellow bucket onto my dome but the helmet was a necessity due to the low rock ceiling. We went pretty deep into the mine and my claustrophobia was swelling. I was glad to get out. Yes - germphobia, claustrophobia, I'm nuts. I know. Thanks.
We spent the afternoon at the Black Hills National Forest having a picnic, swimming in the lake. That evening we visited Camp Judson, a nearby Christian Camp where Jason speaks regularly. After we grubbed we sat on the deck while the kids played in the field below. It's a great place. I like having friends in high places that can hook us up like this.

On the way back to the lodge we saw this group of democrats. I tried to do the world a favor and take a few out with the bumper but they got out of the way too quickly. Them democrats are sly! The next day we went east to Sioux Falls, Jason's home town. On the way we stopped at Wall Drug and if you've never been there I can't really describe it to you except to say it's the mother of all tourist traps and I LOVED IT. What you can expect if you decided to visit....
We pushed on and made it to Sioux Falls. We stayed at the Ramada because they have an indoor pool with a pirate ship. You know why they have an indoor pool with a pirate ship? Because it's so freakin' cold ten months out of the year that an outdoor pool would be solid ice. Anyway, it's cool and the kids (and adults) had a blast.We stayed there a night and then our buddies put us up at their place. It's a great place and I have some cool pictures of it but I can't post them because he's a bigshot in the state and it would be like posting photos of my last trip to Camp David, a no-no. On the 4th of July we visited the falls of Sioux Falls. Beautiful.
I love being an American.

Later we had a barbecue, bought a bunch more explosives and then went to Jason's buddy's place to blow them off.
If there were mountains nearby I'd move there in a heartbeat. I was in heaven. Another one of those benefits of having friends in high places kinda things.

The next day we packed the car and finally started to drive in the direction of home. I was a little sad because seeing Jason and his family was the high point of the vacation (for me, anyway). I miss them terribly. Anyway, we drove all day and ended up in Kearney, Nebraska to go to well, you know...I shot my wad (of money, that is) inside that place. It actually took two days to do so. We stayed at a motel overnight. I know, I accept your scorn.

We went south and into
We stayed with our buddies, Bruce & Melissa and Bryce & Corey. Our first day there we went to Red Rock Amphitheater near Golden. A visitor's center told about all the bands that have played there. The list is impressive.There's a river that runs right through Golden and we had a picnic right next to it. The local yokels grab any floating item they can find and float down during the summer. Looked fun but we weren't really prepared.

That night we visited the Adams family. No, the other Adams family.

And we got to celebrate Jeremy's birthday with them. Which was nice.

The next day we loaded up and hit the road. We had planned to overnight in Grand Junction but we were making good time so we planned to push through to Vegas. Little did we know that darn near all of Utah was on fire. So we got stuck about three hours outside of Vegas and had to get a hotel. A nice place but in the middle of BF Egypt. The next morning the fire danger was gone and we made it into Vegas. I have to tell you, I really hate that place. The heat was oppressive. Everything is way overpriced. There's women walking around with their girlparts hanging out at all hours of the day & night. The whole place is just a big steaming pile. But we had a voucher for two free nights so we stayed one. We played in the arcades, saw the M&M museum (colossal waste of time, trust me on this), and went to see a movie. We're the only family I've ever known that goes to Vegas to see a movie.We were on the road and headed home by noon on day 2. We were antsy to get home and sleep in our own bed. We pulled into the drive around 5:00, totally spent but thankful for a great time. The boys behaved perfectly and never once got whiney about being stuck in the car. I was amazed. I think I'd like to do that trip again but with less structure so we can be more flexible as to where we stay & how long.

PART TWO of 2007 to follow shortly, stay tuned.