Bear Tooth, Bear Claw, Buffalo Burger: A Love Story

DSCF0190This week, I was asking my family to tell me about the happiest times of their lives.  My train of thought on the afternoon commute from work one day took me down this path, and I found it very interesting to ponder that it was actually quite difficult to determine exactly what that time or times were.

DSCF0200 My kids told me that they had the same trouble I did coming up with answers to that.  It depends on many factors.  Did I mean a specific time, a moment, in which they were happier than they ever had been or were after?  Did that mean the best day ever?  How do you quantify happiness?  Does it mean that you laughed harder than you ever had, that you were having an absolute blast, or did I mean like in that quiet kind of way in which just everything came together to allow you to have a peaceful day in which you felt extremely content?  Yes, these are my children, there is no doubt.  Their answers were very insightful, and I hope I can use that information to create more happy moments for them in the future.

My answers to those same questions, though, despite it being hard to nail down, seemed to be mostly related to the past six years with Jason.  Sure, there were some nights with my college roommates in which we laughed so much and had a blast, but I have to say that in the past years by Jason’s side, he has made me laugh harder than anyone ever has, certainly to the point that I did or was in danger of embarrassing myself, running out of breath, having sore abs the next day, and having to cross my legs to avoid peeing myself in laughter or just to be able to hold myself up.  Also, though, there are many days with him that were those quiet kinds of contentment, perhaps from just the peace of having a true companion, or from sharing an adventure, or from spending the day doing what I love with someone who loves the same things.

When I think about the happiest day, one of the days that came to mind was this one that I am going to share pictures from, a day where we crossed from Wyoming to Montana a few times, driving from Billings to Red Lodge, through the Bear Tooth Mountains, and ending up in Silver Gate.  This was early on, a few months into our relationship, during a trip that I knew we would eventually consider some kind of honeymoon.  We spent the day geocaching, sightseeing, looking for wild animals and adventures.

We had crossed through some intense mountain scenery and played in the snow, and were a little cold and hungry when we hit Silver Gate.  We had been scouting for caches we were planning to look for, and got stuck on this one called Bear Claw.  The description said it was located at a place that sold bear claws, and the more we talked about this, the more we decided that we wanted one of those very badly.  We had worked up an image in our head of hot, fresh tasty pastries, so we were so disappointed when we pulled up and realized that it was just a gas station, and in fact the reference was to Little Debbie type snack cakes, which they were out of anyways.  There were no bear claws of any kind to be had here.

Disappointed but soldiering on, we drove up to the entrance of Yellowstone National Park to inquire about camping spots, only to be told that they were full and there were no spots to be had.  So we turned back around and drove the twenty or so miles back to Silver Gate and rented a little cabin for the night to a tune that was higher than we wanted to spend, but lower than the peak rate, so a negotiated compromise.  Then we went driving around the National Park, finding bison and antelope galore to feast our eyes upon (no no wolves or bears, which we hoped for).DSCF0258

That night, we walked across the street to this little restaurant, the Log Cabin Cafe, and ate the most delicious buffalo burgers you could ever dream of.  We still laugh about that, about how we had to eat one after looking at them all day.  I remember the feeling walking out of that place, breathing the crisp air, seeing the stars lighting up the sky all around us, and the feeling of love filling my chest and the feeling that it was settling there, that this was the start of something huge.

And this was one of the happiest days of my life, but it is just one of several wonderful ones we have had together since that time, in our various road trips and other smaller adventures we have together.  I came to this place in my life to be happy, giving up on my previous miserable marriage, and there are these days that I can count on to show me that this path I chose, this man I chose, was the way to find it.

Summer Summary

When I last wrote, the summer seemed full of possibilities yet, and now it is winding down.  Only two weeks until the start of another school year.  As we all expected, summer’s heat has turned up the dial and we are all sweltering.  However, it hasn’t really stopped us from playing outside, because we are crazy like that.  20160729_154220

Perhaps in a different year, we would have lost all interest in outdoor activities, but three current activities are keeping us motivated:  a step challenge at my work, my goal to get to 4000 geocache finds by my 41st birthday (31 finds/37 days left), and the advent of Pokemon Go.  I realize that Pokemon Go is one of those things that you either love, hate, or laugh at, but it is a perfect way to inspire my ten year old who really needs more exercise (and can’t stand geocaching anymore) to get out of the house and be active.  It is a lure, to borrow a term from the game, to encourage him to go for a walk around the neighborhood, at a local park, or even our nearby malls on particularly hot days, so I can still get my steps in for the step challenge but yet not feel guilty about leaving my children to work on it.

These are our top ten places we have discovering and playing at this summer since I last wrote (not an all-inclusive list, and besides the places I mentioned last time):

  1. McClendon Park:  I have decided this is one of my favorite finds of the summer.  It has a nice playground for all ages, a splashpad, geocaches, pokestops and gyms for PG, and also it is right next to a rookery where tons of birds have made their roost, making for exciting bird watching as well.
  2. 20160716_185443 20160716_185541Pine Mill Ranch:  this is a neighborhood near my house that I have been geocaching in by bike, sometimes alone and sometimes with my friend and her kids.  One day, we were really hot towards the end and found the splashpad.  Playing in it really cooled us down, and later I planned a Hike It Baby walk there, but was disappointed that only one other person showed up.  This seems to be my fate with planning Hike It Baby walks, so I have kind of given up on that myself, although Jason has been taking the kids on tons of Hike It Baby walks since he has been spending the summer as a stay-at-home dad.
  3. Katy Mills Mall:  the mall is not new to us, but we rediscovered how much we enjoyed it after Pokemon Go.  It has a ton of pokemon stuff going on, but also it is a nice air-conditioned venue to get some exercise, and someday we plan to spend a whole day there, perhaps paying to ride the train and the giant robotic stuffed animals, to sample all the foods and check out all the stores.  For now, we mostly play and window-shop.  We also had a good time re-exploring Memorial City Mall, although the play area was very crowded.  There was this special thing going on while we were there in which we found this giant Pokemon exhibit and had to take a pic of the real-life pokeball.20160730_175808
  4. Fort Bend Discovery Center:  This is the new branch of the Houston Children’s Museum, and it is much closer and much less crowded.  We decided to buy a family membership after a nice visit there last weekend with our friends (that I met online last year, through a baby app and then via Facebook and Hike It Baby).  These pics are the kids having fun discovering all the exhibits.  The Tot Spot was awesome – a safe, air conditioned place with all kinds of toddler friendly activities.  When I was in there, I felt like I was really doing something good for my kids.  Jason will probably take Sebastian back there regularly during the week now that we have a membership and until he starts working again.
    20160806_110120 20160806_104540
  5. Rick Rice Park:  lots of pokemon activity
  6. Westgreen Park:  I discovered this little gem when we were going back and forth to Rick Rice Park in the past few weeks.  It has a playground and a splash pad, and Sebastian really enjoyed playing there.  There is no playground at Rick Rice, so this is a good way to reward him for being a good boy and putting up with being pushed around in the stroller or driving around looking for imaginary monsters20160801_201428 20160801_20154320160801_195148
  7. Quillian Center (Noah’s Ark Pool):  I took these younger guys there on a day around Fourth of July weekend, during a time when Jason was taking AJ to urgent care to look at the full body rash he had acquired.  We had a lot of fun and I would take the kids back, but probably not until next year when Sebastian is a little more able to keep up with the bigger kids.
  8. Ervan Chew Park:  On the surface, this park is pretty basic, but we had a good time here playing on the playground, in the splashpad, catching Pokemon, and watching the dogs in the dog park next door. Plus there was this water fountain incident that made us laugh:20160729_152928
  9.  Houston Zoo:  although I will say, I am not going back here until it cools down, because I almost died when we went in the middle of the day on a July Saturday.  I sweated so much.  The splash pad was fun, though, and we have free admission (membership) until November.  We’ll be back, just not until temps are below 90.20160709_123717 20160709_123725
  10. The elementary school:  the school Kaleb goes to is not that far from our house, and it has a really nice playground for Sebastian to play on in the evenings (particularly summer evenings).  He is obsessed with playing ball right now, so this is a good place to take him in the evenings to let him chase soccer balls around in the grass, or learn how to bounce basketballs.20160731_094111