Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The last three weeks - Living in Yellowstone Update #8

Wow has this been a month.  August isn't even over yet and so far my family has experienced three major life events. 1. We moved, 2. we saw a total solar eclipse, and 3. my husband and kids have all started school.

But this post isn't about any of those things.  Instead it's about the things we did during our last three weeks in Yellowstone. I wrote most of this while I was still living in the park, but I didn't have time to post it.

So journey back with me in time to when my family was still having our carefree summer in Yellowstone National Park. 

Months ago I'd marked August 1st on the calendar as the date that I wanted find a home in Pocatello. Goals have a way of working out because at 4:15 on August 1st we received a call from the property management company in charge of the home we were hoping to rent. They told us that we'd passed the background check and were able to get the 4 bedroom house that we wanted.

There was just one little obstacle-our lease didn't start until the 15th, but we had to pay the deposit by August 3rd. And we had to pay it with either a money order or cashier's check.

At first we talked about taking another weekend trip down to Pocatello as a family. But we'd just done that the weekend before. So instead I told my husband that he should drive down there by himself. He could travel much faster without the kids, and it would be a much needed break after his summer of being the stay-at-home dad. So on Thursday he got up early and drove down to Pocatello and I spent my day off playing with the kids.

This was the first time all summer that it's been just me and the kids. I decided to take them to Norris Basin. I wanted to see what it was like in the morning. We started out in the Porcelain Basin which is very pretty. We walked from there ALLLL the way over to the Back basin and then back. Its a long hike, but my kids are pros at this.

In the afternoon we opened up our Kiwi Crate. I subscribed to these at the beginning of the summer as kind of a consolation prize for suspending our Netflix account. These crates come each month with fun, hands on science activities for your kids to do. What I love about them is that they have everything to do the activity. You don't have to go find special equipment to complete the project. I also love that they are science based. I love watching my kids get excited about science.

This month's theme was all about the body. They had little felt pieces cut out in shapes of organs. The kids used yarn (that was provided) to sew the felt together. (There were also handy pre-cut holes to put the yarn in so this was easy for my kids to do.) They had a great time making a heart, a brain, and a stomach.
We also put together a stethoscope. The kids (and me) were amazed to hear their heartbeats through the stethoscope. Hurray for science and hurray for kiwi crates.
All summer long we have been plagued by mosquitoes, but in the past few weeks they have disappeared. That means we can finally enjoy the area outside our RV. The night my husband was gone we spent a long time playing outside. My 3 year old had a lot of fun gathering rocks and arranging them in different shapes. Here they are a nest. She also made them in a long snake shape. She'd pretend the rocks were babies and she walked around singing, "I've got the babies, I've got the babies" to the tune of "the Farmer in the Dale" while she arranged the rocks.

A few days later the twins used some of the rocks to build a pretend fireplace. My three year old had been pretending the rocks were Easter Eggs and tried to take them back. A big argument ensured where the girls were all fighting over rocks. This is why we don't spend a lot of money on toys.

My husband came back home in the afternoon on Friday. We just hung around that day, but by Saturday we were ready for adventure.

Two of the very first things that I put on my Yellowstone bucket list were to swim in the Firehole River and to walk from the Old Faithful area to the Black Sands Geyser Basin. For some reason these thing didn't happen until almost the end of our time in Yellowstone.

My son had been asking to see "Paint Pops" for days and so we stopped at the Fountain Paint pot area so he could see those. There is a geyser  in that area that is almost always going off so we stopped to watch that for a while.

Then it was on to the Old Faithful area. On busy summer days in the height of tourist season there is hardly any parking in the geyser basins near Old Faithful. So walking the 2 miles from Old Faithful to the Black Sands Basin was a better plan than fighting for parking. Plus we got to walk by many interesting geysers and hot springs.
When we finally made it to the Black Sands Basin, Everyone loved Cliffside geyser.  It put on a show the whole time we were there.  It made my son laugh a lot.

We also really liked Sunset Lake. In the back ground of this picture you can see a little puff of steam. That's most likely Grand Geyser. We'd walked by it earlier and read that it was projected to erupt within the next three hours.

We walked back to Old Faithful and despite the long walk and the warm temperatures my daughter said, "that wasn't a long hike." It had been over 2 miles, but by comparison to some of our other adventures it was rather short.

We took a break and relaxed in the movie theater at the visitor center. Then my husband ran back to the car and grabbed the bag with our swimming suits in it. We went to the bathroom in the Old Faithful Lodge and helped the kids change into swimming suites. We put our clothes back on over our suits so people couldn't tell that we were wearing swimming suits, but the twins were still saying things like, "I'm so embarrassed, I can't believe I'm wearing my swimming suit in public."

Then we drove to the Firehole river. Parking is a little crazy there so my husband just dropped us off at the staircase that leads down to the river and then drove ahead to find a parking space. I took the kids down and he joined us a few minutes later.

The water from every geyser and hot spring upstream flows into the Firehole River and makes it warm. The water wasn't hot, but it wasn't cold either. Most of the kids had a good time swimming. My son doesn't like situations where he feels unstable so he didn't want to walk very far into the water. I put him on my back and gave him a piggy back ride in the water, but he never felt comfortable with that and cried a lot. Btu other than that swimming in the river was pretty cool. I'm so glad we finally got this crossed off my bucket list.

Another thing we've been wanting to do all summer is to have the kids earn their junior ranger badges. To earn these you have to buy a book for $3 and then have your kids do the age appropriate activities. You also have to walk on a trail and attend a ranger talk.

Well the first two were pretty easy. My husband worked with the kids to help them fill out their books. And they've hiked on more trails and boardwalks then some real rangers so that was easy to do. But the ranger talk proved more tricky. Canyon Village has ranger talks every night, but they start at 9:30 AKA after bedtime. And I wasn't sure the kids would be able to do one during the day. Our kids don't have the best attention spans and I knew that we'd need both parents there - one to take out the kids that couldn't listen and one to stay with the ones who could.

Then I read that there was a ranger talk every night at 7:30 at the Norris Campground. So we headed over there on Monday night. As predicted one child didn't want to listen. So I took my son on a walk while my husband sat with the girls and learned all about invasive water species.

My son and I spent a glorious hour enjoying a little stream. He threw rocks in the water and I thought about how much I truly love this place. Some of my favorite moment in Yellowstone are when I get a chance to just be still and absorb the park. I love the clarity that I feel in those moments.
The bison have been in Rut since the very end of July. We've gone down to the Hayden Valley a few times to watch them. The males let out a low moan that kind of sounds like a drawn out frog croaking. They stay very close to the females. And, as one of my daughters observed, sometimes they jump on top of each other.

On our very last weekend in Yellowstone as a family we decided to do something that we've been talking about all summer. We rented a boat and drove it on Yellowstone Lake. There are several options for how to see the lake. You can rent a row boat, you can rent a boat with an outboard motor, you can charter a private fishing tour, or you can go on a boat tour. When I did the math I realized it was about the same cost to rent the boat as it would be for the 6 of us to go on the tour. My husband told me he'd rather drive a boat than go on a tour so the motor boat won out.

Still, I kept debating about whether or not we should go. Our finances have always been tight and I don't have a job lined up yet for after Yellowstone so I wasn't sure if spending $50-70 on a boat ride was prudent. But in the end I decided that we should do the boat ride. The kids have been looking forward to this for months and I don't know when we'll be back in Yellowstone with time for a boat ride. So we decided to do it. I can always make more money, we can't always go on a boat ride. (And I get a 20% discount as a Xanterra employee so that make me feel better about the whole thing.)

I'm so glad we decided to do this. From the moment we stepped on the dock the kids were so excited. We put a life preserver on my 3 year old and she started jumping up and down and yelling, "I love this."

We gave the kids a quick talk about settling down and paying attention and then we listened to the rental employee talk about boat safety. He showed my husband how to operate the boat and then helped us all into the boat. And then we were off.

My husband loved driving the boat. For a split second I was like, "will he be able to handle it?" and then I was like, "oh nevermind he's flown airplanes and helicopters, he'll be fine." We had to go slow while we made our way out of Bridge Bay Marina. But as soon as we were passed the last buoy he pushed the throttle all the way forward and we raced across the water.
Everyone loved the speed. One of the twins is always trying to stick her head out the car window so she can feel the wind in her hair. She kept yelling, "I've always wanted to do this!" The three year old added a few more yells of "I love this." And the other two kids laughed and cheered too.
There is a limited area where you can dirve the boat on the lake, but it's still a pretty good area. We passed Lake Hotel, Storm Point, and made it all the way to Steamboat Point. Then we turned around and went passed the island on our way back to the Marina. This was one of our favorite things we did in Yellowstone.

A few weeks ago I said that the stage coach ride at Roosevelt is the most cost effective activity in the park. That's not quite true. It's the least expensive thing on a per person basis. But renting a boat is even more cost effective - if you have a large group. The boats hold up to 8 people, and they are rented out per hour instead of per person. So if you have a group of 6-8 people renting a boat is very affordable.

Our boat ride was only one of the lake related things we had planned for the day. After the boat ride we went to a picnic area by the lake and had lunch. Then we drove down to the West Thumb area of the lake. Up until this summer I always thought that West Thumb was just an area with an overlook of the lake. Consequently I never wanted thought it was worth my time to visit it. Then I realized that it's a Geyser area. And a beautiful one at that. Even after living here for 2 1/2 months I can still be amazed by things inside the park.
Our final stop for the day was an spot on a hill where you can overlook the lake.  I'm going to miss sights like this.
We had plans to go on one last hike on my last day off, but those were cancelled when my husband decided that we probably should get the Honda's brakes replaced before starting all the moving related driving. Fortunately we have the kind of brakes that are "easy" and less expensive to purchase so my husband was able to buy them in West Yellowstone and replace them all in one day. It actually only took about 90 minutes for him to replace them.

That night I took my son and daughter to Artist Paint pots so my son could see some more "Paint pops." The area was pretty, but my favorite picture from the night was the aftermath from one of my daughters hugs. She does this to her brother all the time.

The next day I started into my last week of work. I have 4 day work weeks. A few weeks ago I realized I could get an extra week of pay if I extended my contract by only 4 days. So I did that. The trade off meant that I would have to work 8 days with only one day off in the middle.

We decided that it would be best if my husband took the kids and worked on the move while I stayed in Yellowstone  for that long work week. So they left on Sunday night to go down to Utah and get our stuff out of my in-laws garage where it has been stored for the past 9 months.

Several weeks ago Xanterra had an employee appreciation sale where we could get merchandise for 40% off. The kids all picked out toys with the understanding that they couldn't play with the toys until they left Yellowstone. I gave the kids their toys when they were in their seats. It helped easy the sadness of saying goodbye for almost a week.

The next week was a blur of work and driving. I'm pretty certain I should be in Florida right now after all the driving I did.  I worked three days and then spent my one day off driving to Pocatello to help my husband move our stuff into our rental.  That night I drove back to Yellowstone, and then worked 4 more days.  On Saturday I drove down to Idaho Falls and met my husband and kids.  We left the Jeep there and drove back to Yellowstone.  We all spent one last night in the RV together.  I went to my last day of work, and then we drove out of Yellowstone the way we had come.  My husband drove the RV and I drove the Honda.

And so now it's all over.  I'm still trying to find the right words to sum it all up. Our 13 weeks in Yellowstone was the most fulfilling time of my life. I've never felt so content.  It was like my whole life led up to that summer.  I'm so glad my husband and I took the risk and did something crazy. This summer will pay dividends for the rest of our lives.

For some reason I keep thinking of a scene from the 2005 movie Sahara.  This movie is known as the biggest blockbuster flop of all time, but my husband and I love it.  We like the relationship between the two main characters as they deal with crazy adventures. We often quote these lines:

Al Giordino: Hey, you know how it is when you see someone that you haven't seen since high school, and they got some dead-end job, and they're married to some woman that hates them, they got, like, three kids who think he's a joke? Wasn't there some point where he stood back and said, "Bob, don't take that job! Bob, don't marry that harpy!" You know?

Dirk Pitt: Your point?

Al Giordino: Well, we're in the desert, looking for the source of a river pollutant, using as our map a cave drawing of a Civil War gunship, which is also in the desert. So I was just wondering when we're gonna have to sit down and re-evaluate our decision-making paradigm?

Dirk Pitt: [coming up on the fortress seen in the cave painting] I don't know - it seems to be working so far.

So back when we decided to take our four kids and live in a 25 foot RV in a National Park we asked each other "when are we gonna have to sit down and re-evaluate our decision-making paradigm?"  

Followed quickly by, "I don't know - it seems to be working so far."

And so far it has.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Water Features - Yellowstone Update #7

It feels like it's been forever since I did an update about what we have been up to here in Yellowstone. We've done so much in the past few weeks.  I've hardly had any time to sit down and create a blog post.  As it is, I still don't have much time, but I'm going to try to squeeze out a post right now.  I promise to write more in-depth posts about Yellowstone after we are done here when I have access to better internet again. 

Somehow most of the things we did in July all had to do with water.  

First up is the hike we went on the day after we hiked Mt Washburn.  You'd think we would be sick of hiking, but no we decided this would be a good day to see the suspension bridge that crosses the Yellowstone River in the north part of the park.  The hike to the bridge was "only" a mile.  But since this was only a day after our big 7 mile hike the kids weren't exactly thrilled to be walking a long distance.  Plus we'd been lazy and gotten a late start that day.  So by the time we reached the bridge none of us were in good moods.  Everyone was kind of like, "this is it?"  In retrospect it was a pretty cool bridge.  I just don't recommend this hike as a follow up to Mt Washburn. 
 When we got back to the car we drove out of the park and into a National Forest area north of Gardner Montana.  My supervisor had told me about a place that she went to pick wildflowers and I knew that was somewhere my daughter would enjoy.  She's always talking about how she wants to stand in a field of flowers and pick as many as she wants.

So we brought a bucket of water and picked many wild flowers.  This wasn't quite as dreamy as it looks or sounds though.  That's because there were bugs everywhere.  And they were vicious. A horse fly bit me so bad that I started to bleed.  The kids were all hysterical by the time we left.
 So far this day had felt pretty hit and miss. So I was hoping our final activity would be a home run.  I'd read about a swimming place called Boiling River.  Boiling River itself is run off from a hot spring near Mammoth Hot Springs. It's not boiling, but it is too hot to swim in.  However, the area where Boiling River meets the Gardner River is a nice place to swim.  We went there to check it out.  And it was great!  I was surprised by how HOT the run off water was and how COLD the river water was.  One side of my body was cooking while the other was freezing.  But I was able to find a good balance and enjoyed soaking in the water.  We all had a great time.
 After a busy weekend I was glad to get back to work so I could rest.  I started my new position which meant longer days.  I love my new job, but the one draw back is that I don't really feel like going on adventures when I get home from work.  (But the three day weekend makes up for that.) However one night I did feel like going somewhere.  I took two of my kids to Artist Paint Pots.  We sat by one paint pot for over half and hour and watched it spurt out mud.  We had a lot of fun with that.
 The first time I visited Yellowstone I came with my family when I was 17.  If you ask my mom about that trip she will tell you how all we did was drive on skinny two lane roads along the sides of mountains. That basically sums up my commute to and from work. I go through the Dunraven Pass on Mount Washburn every day.  It's pretty awesome.
 One day my family met me after work and we checked three waterfalls off our bucket list in one evening.  The first was Lost Creek Falls behind Roosevelt Lodge.  You can't get very close to that water fall and so I don't have a great picture. The second was Undine Falls which is just off the northern part of the Grand Loop Road.  This is probably the prettiest waterfall that you can see from the side of the road.
 The third waterfall was Wraith Falls which is half a mile from the main road.  The waterfall itself was okay, but my favorite part of the hike was these jungle girls that we encountered.
 On one of my days off we went to West Yellowstone to meet up with one of my friends.  When we were done with our visit I didn't want to go back into the park yet.  So we went a little bit north to check out Quake Lake.

This is the sight of a terrible disaster back in the 1950's. There was an earthquake near here. The earthquake caused a landslide that blocked the flow of the Madison river. At the same time as the landslide, water went sloshing over the dam of a lake upstream. The wave of water crashed through the canyon where over over 200 campers slept. It was a night of terror for everyone as they struggled to reach high ground and assess the situation.

In the aftermath of the disaster people were rescued and roads were repaired. The US Army corps of engineers assessed the landslide and decided the best thing to do was to dig a spillway for the water. The water flows over the landslide, but much of it stays behind the landslide forming a lake. This is known as Quake Lake. Today you can still see the tops of trees sticking out of the water..
 Then we went to Virginia City which is basically a mining town that converted to tourism as a way to avoid becoming a ghost town.

The next day I had a whole list of things I wanted to see inside the park. I wanted to hike to Fairy Falls, then hike to Mystic Falls, then go to Old Faithful for a solar viewing demonstration, then hike to the observation point overlooking Old Faithful, and finally go swim in the Firehole River.

I made all these plans before I actually looked at a map.  I realized that the hike to Fairy Falls would be quite a bit farther than I anticipated.  But I figured since the trail was level it wouldn't be that bad.

We ended up spending the whole day just on the Fairy Falls trail - or rather a trail that led to the Fairy Falls Trail.  The real Fairy Falls trail was closed during the early part of the summer.  I just assumed it was still closed and so we decided to take the longer route to Fairy Falls on the Fountain Flats drive trail.

In retrospect we probably should have taken a 5 minute drive down the main road to verify that the Fairy Falls trail was still closed.  But we didn't think to do that.  So we optimistically set out on the Fountain Flats Drive trail.  It would be 3 miles before we even met up with the Fairy Falls trail.
As predicted the trail was flat and it wasn't a bad hike.  We'd set out early enough in the day that it wasn't hot.  But there were a few things that made the hike difficult. Biting moths being the main things. I didn't even know moths could bit.  But these things bit with a vengeance. They even bit through our clothes.   The kids were crying, but we'd come so far that turning back wasn't an option.

Our map and guidebook both listed Imperial Geyser as an interesting side trip from Fairy Falls.  I just wanted to get to the falls, but my husband wanted to take the side trip.  So we followed a trail to the west and soon arrived at a small geyser spurting out water.  I wasn't impressed by the geyser and wished we had skipped it.  But my husband noticed a run off channel that seemed to be coming from farther up the trail.  So he went up the trail to investigate.  He came back grinning and said that the real Imperial Geyser was located 100 meters up the trail.

So we went up there and were greeted by the best kept secret in Yellowstone. Imperial Geyser is a fountain geyser that erupts about 10 feet in the air for about 5 minutes at a time.  There's only about a minute between eruptions. In addition to being a beautiful and consistent geyser it is surrounded by a gorgeous pool of water that is brilliantly blue. We ate our lunch while enjoying the stunning site.  This was definitely worth the hike.
 Then it was time to continue on to Fairy Falls.  We'd been able to see the ridge with the falls during the whole hike.  At first we could just see a dark impression where the falls were.  But gradually we could make out the falls, and later we could even see the water flowing through thin waterfall.  Finally we were close enough to hear the water falling.  We went up close to the falls and found a shady area with a small pool.  Some hikers were brave enough to get into the cold water.  We were content to stand on the side and enjoy the cool air.
We took a different way back to Fountain Flats Drive and noticed a lot more hikers than we'd seen all day. I began to suspect that maybe the real Fairy Falls Trail was open after all.  And if it was open it meant that something else that had been closed might be open.  One reason the Fairy Falls trail had been closed earlier this summer was because the park service was building an observation area on the hill that overlooks the Grand Prismatic Springs.  For years people have climbed this hill in order to get a good look at the largest spring in the park.  None of the trails were official and quite a bit of erosion was occurring.  Finally they decided to just put in an official trail and observation point.  This trail led off of the Real Fairy Falls trail.

So when we reached the Fountain Flats drive we didn't start the 3 mile hike back to the car.  Instead we turned toward the hill above Grand Prismatic Spring.  We could see people on the observation platform and soon we found the trail to the top.  The view was definitely worth the short hike up there.
We could tell that the official Fairy Falls trail was open and so we made an important choice.  I decided to take the kids down the mile or so to the real Fairy Falls trail head.  My husband would hike back the 3 1/2 miles to our car which was parked at the Fountain Flats trail head.  Then he would drive the car to pick us up.

I'm so glad we decided to do that.  As it was we ended up waiting for over an hour for him to come pick us up.  I have no idea how long it would have taken us to hike back to the car with four tired kids in tow.

By this time it was after 5:00 and we were wiped out! All our other plans for this day would have to wait until other days.

Once again I was pretty happy to go back to work so I could have a chance to rest from our crazy weekend.

On July 24th we celebrated Pioneer Day by making covered wagons out of graham crackers, marshmallows, and lifesavers. The kids through this was great. 
 The next weekend was spent on a different sort of activity. House hunting! Our time in Yellowstone will be over before the end of August so it's time to start preparing for life after Yellowstone. We got up around 5:00 so we could get to Pocatello in time to spend the day looking at rental houses. On our way out of the park we saw this beautiful sight of elk grazing in a meadow.
 Our time in Pocatello was a whirlwind of looking at houses, driving by more houses, and finally applying for the house we wanted. I ended up with probably the biggest headache of my life.  But it was all worth it because a few days later we were notified that we'd got the house we wanted.  I was glad that I could finally stop worrying about that.  We stayed the night at a campground south of the city. We brought our little tent and we all remarked on how much we like tent camping.

On our way back to Yellowstone we stopped at Mesa Falls.  This is one of the first places I ever wrote about on this blog.  My husband and I discovered this waterfall 9 years ago, but this is the first time we've been back together. (I stopped by with the kids almost exactly two years ago while he was at an Army training.) This is one of my favorite waterfalls and no visit to Yellowstone is complete without a stop here.
 We'd spent two days in Pocatello, but thanks to the magic of three day weekends I still had a day to play in the park before I had to go back to work.  So we decided to pick up where we'd left off the week before and hike to Mystic Falls.
And then we went to Old Faithful and hiked to the observation point so we could watch the eruption from up there. I've wanted to do this since I was 17.  I was very happy with the view.
And that pretty much gets us caught up to today. We have plans to see the Black Sands geyser basin and then swim in the Fire Hole River.  I'm hoping to find time to post about those things soon, but no promises.  The next three weeks are basically filled up with either things relating to work or things related to moving.

But like I said, I plan to do some in-depth posts about the park in the weeks after we move.  So keep checking back often.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 21, 2017

The inconvenient life - Living in Yellowstone Update #6

"Is your life not inconvenient enough? Buy an RV."

That's a joke my husband and I came up with 7 years ago. We were in the middle of our epic 9 day road trip through Southern Utah. It was just the two of us, our jeep, and our tent. Every night we set up the tent in a different campground, and every morning we packed the tent and other camping gear into our jeep and travelled to the next location. It was basically our dream vacation. One night, as we sat around our camp fire in Arches National Park, we started making up silly tag lines for the things around us. Most weren't that memorable or funny, but the one about RV's stood out and became a long-running joke.

We couldn't understand why anyone would want to travel with a cumberson RV. Over the years we'd repeat "Is your life not inconvient enough? Buy an RV." Every time we saw someone trying to navigate a parking lot in an RV.

Two years ago, when we moved to Fort Rucker, Alabama, I met a family at church who had moved out of their Army housing to live in a trailer at the Campground on Fort Rucker. During our 18 months in Alabama I knew four other family's that made the same decision. Some of them lived in trailers, others lived in RVs.

I knew they were saving money by living in RVs/trailers rather than the on post housing. My husband and I briefly talked about maybe doing the same thing, but we ultimately decided that there was no way on earth we would ever give up our four bedroom house - or all our stuff- to live in an RV.

Little did we know the interesting turns that were coming up in our lives. My husband decided to get out of the military, I decided to go work in Yellowstone, and that meant our family of 6 was going to live in an RV for three months.

I'll admit I was a little worried about the logistics of daily life in a space as big as the master bathroom/walk in closet of our Alabama home. But with careful planning we've been able to make it work. In a previous post I showed all the updates we did to the RV to make it into a living space. Today I want to do a post highlighting many of the ways that we make this unusual living arrangement work for us. As you'll see we've learned a lot of things about simplifying our lives.

Here's a picture of our campsite. We have the jeep which I take to work (special thanks to my in-laws for bringing it up to me when I got promoted and had to start commuting), the Honda which my husband and kids take on their adventures, and the RV where we live. The campground supplies ectricity and water and has a sewage connection as well. The only thing we don't have ready access to is hot water. But that's our own fault.

On the second day here our water heater tank started leaking.  After working on it for a while my husband decided that it couldn't be fixed easily or cheaply while living in the middle of no where.  So we haven't had any hot water while we've lived here.  That's not as big of a problem as it sounds because we have a bath house with showers located just a few yards from our campsite.  (And quite honestly I planned on showering at the bathhouse even before our hot water heater broke so it wasn't that big of a loss anyway.)  The kids quickly learned to take showers instead of baths.

There is a laundry room located on the back side of the bath house. This is where we do laundry once a week. It costs $1.00 to wash a load and .25 for 10 minutes in the dryer. The prices aren't terrible, but they have certainly made us more conscious of how much laundry we do. Over the last few years we've been in the habit of considering everything dirty after it's been worn once (side effects of having a house full of babies that spit up and have leaky diapers) but now everyone will wear clothes for a day or two before putting them into the dirty clothes.
Another reason we are so willing to wear clothes over multiple days is that we didn't bring that many clothes to begin with.  We have a dresser in the living room that the kids all share.  Each child has one drawer that has to hold all their clothes. Each child brought 4 pairs of pajamas, 8 shirts and 8 pants/shorts.
My husband and I use the top drawer of the dresser for our socks and pajamas. The rest of our clothes are in the closet in the bathroom. We also have about 8 shirts, 8 pants/shorts and 4 pairs of pajamas. It was so hard to pair down my clothes to that few outfits. And actually I cheated and brought "pajama" shirts that I don't mind wearing out in public.

Also, with my promotion I can wear my own clothes instead of an ugly uniform. Which would be awesome if I'd brought any business casual clothes. Luckily I was able to do some successful emergency thrift shopping in Cody and find clothes that will work.

Our closet came with a really annoying way of hanging clothes. We had to put each hangar into its own slot. This is a great system if you are driving around the RV and you don't want your clothes sliding around while you drive. But it's annoying if you are trying to push clothes out of the way. So a few weeks ago my husband installed a real curtain rod. This makes hanging up clean clothes almost enjoyable.

You may be wondering where we put our dirty clothes.  Well, we've blocked off the drivers and passengers seats with some curtains.  We keep a laundry basket on the drivers seat.  That's where we put our dirty clothes.  The passenger seat holds boxes where we store some of our food.  We keep the stuff for our Sunday church service between the seats and in the foot room areas.  And on top of that we keep the pillows and blankets that my husband and I sleep with each night.
When my nephew was visiting he wanted to see inside all our cupboards.  So I thought that you might want to see inside each of them too.  Let's start with one of the living room cupboards.  On the outside it has some random drawings and art projects.  On the inside it holds the computer that is hooked up to our monitor, our DVD's (we really enjoyed the first season of Sabrina the Teenage Witch) and our first aid kit and some other emergency supplies.
The other living room cupboard is much the same on the outside, but on the inside it's very different. The kids can reach this cupboard if they stand on the couch so we put lots of things for them in the cupboard.  One side has art supplies in a big tote, the middle has games, and the other side has lots of books.  Every evening I read to the kids while they fall asleep.  So far we've read Where the Red Fern Grows, Home Alone, Bunicula, and My Side of the Mountain (so far this was our favorite - maybe because we can relate to the main character) We are currently reading the Silver Crown and I'm hoping to read two or three other books before the summer is over.
 In the kitchen cupboards we have dishes, dish rags, and my husband's school text books.
We only brought 6 plates, 6 small plates, 6 bowls, 6 knives, 6 forks, 6 spoons, and 6 cups.  That means we have to do dishes after every meal.  This has been a big change for all of us because we were used to using different dishes at each meal and then doing a big load in the dishwasher every night.  Now everyone works together to wash, rinse, dry, and put away the dishes.  (Full disclosure we don't always have the kids help with every meal.  Sometimes it's just easier to do the dishes ourselves rather than nag them, but they help more often then not.)
One of my favorite things about the RV is that we are connected to electricity.  So we can easily use things like the TV and the microwave. Since we have hardly any counter space (technically we have none) we keep the microwave in a cupboard. The cupboard next to it has all our spices and other baking things.
Food prices in the park are expensive, and they aren't much better in the towns near the park.  Our nearest Walmart is 90 miles away in Cody.  So we knew we would have to use all of our food storage skills. The biggest change to how we eat is that we can't buy milk - there just isn't room in the fridge for it.  Even without milk we we pack the fridge full every two weeks and then gradually empty it out. Here's a picture of what the fridge looks like before a shopping trip and after.
The same thing happens in our pantry. We have a pretty good stock pile of canned food and other non perishable things.  We also have a good supply of treats that we keep on the top shelf.  We give the kids treats like gummy worms and Swedish fish for eating all their dinner, and for helping do the dishes. My husband also packs treats to help motivate the kids while hiking.
We also store food in a cupboard under one of the dinette seats. This is where all the extra food goes before it goes into the pantry.  Before we came here we went to the LDS cannery store in Ogden and bought big cans of dehydrated apples, potatoes, milk, onions, and oatmeal.  We also went to Gosners Cheese in Logan Utah and bought two big cases of shelf milk.  This cupboard works well, but it apparently is easy to get to from the outside because we found signs that mice had been in there.  So we set a mouse trap.  So far we've caught four mice.
 The final cupboard is the bathroom cupboard.  This is where the extra toothpaste, soap, and shampoo is stored as well as all our medicine.  I was really worried that the kids would get sick while we were living here so we made sure to come prepared.  But so far no one has been sick yet.

My husband had our propane tank filled before we came here and it lasted us until July. (It helped that we didn't have to have to heat the hot water tank.) When the propane started running low we weren't sure how we would refill the tank. In theory we could just drive the RV to one of the gas stations in the park and have them refill the propane, but that seemed like a giant hassle. Our RV is on leveling blocks and I did not enjoy the thought of taking it off the blocks, driving it, and then trying to get it level again. So I was pretty happy when we asked around and discovered that Amerigas would come to us and refill the tank. Amerigas has terrible customer service, but even that was worth dealing with so we didn't have to move the RV.

While we were working on the propane problem we still had to eat. One night we wanted Pizza, but we didn't want to use the propane powered pizza oven. So my husband figured out how to make pizza in the electric skillet. It turned out really well.

He also likes to cook with our new dutch oven.  We bought this for our wedding anniversary back in May.  Cast iron is the traditional 10 year gift, right?
Another creative cooking technique we use is to make cake in a sandwich maker.  We actually figured this one back in our college days.  We'd been ready to make a cake when the heating element in our oven went out.  We decided to try to cook the cake in the sandwich maker and discovered that it worked.  This technique comes in handy on days when you don't want to heat up your house when you turn on the oven.
I've actually been really surprised by how many normal things we can do in our tiny kitchen.  Here are the twins helping make a treat that they saw in a magazine.
One of the biggest differences in how we live is the amount of TV everyone watches.  Our kids loved vegging out and watching Netflix and stupid YouTube channels.  But we don't have the internet here so they can't do that.  If they do watch something it's usually a movie in the afternoon or evening.  The rest of the time they have to entertain themselves.  After going through some withdrawals they've discovered all the fun things that they can do.  One day I came home from work and the twins proudly showed me the puppets they'd made.  Then they acted out the story of Cinderella.
 The twins also spent several days constructing an elaborate fairy house outside the RV. (And yes, one of the twins spends quite a bit of time pretending to be a bat.)
I think my son has benefited the most from the reduction in TV time.  He's always loved letters but he's never liked writing or even drawing for that matter.  Well lately he's been sitting down and writing his alphabet letters.  One night he picked up a park newspaper and wanted me to help him cut out the pictures.  We cut the pictures out together and then glued them onto a piece of paper.  Then I told him how to spell Yellowstone National Park and he carefully wrote each letter.  He actually knew how to spell Yellow all by himself.  This project kept him busy for at least an hour and a half.  It was incredible.
And what's my youngest daughter been doing? Well she's always enjoyed playing with odd things and that really hasn't changed much. Here she is playing with the dice that she earned when she finished potty training. (This girl is funny, my husband told her she could have any toy on the toy aisle and she picked dice?) They came with a little bag that she'll take with her everywhere - even on little hikes. But we've also noticed her pretending more than she used to. She has little stuffed animals that she'll talk with and play with. Its fun to see her using her imagination.

So is living in an RV an inconvenient life like I always assumed? Yes and No. Yes because we do have to do things in a rather deliberate manner. We can't just leave the dishes in the sink all day or we can't just leave clean laundry in a basket on the couch. We have to clean throughout the day. But honestly living in the RV has helped us develop habits that we probably should have had anyway.

Living here has really helped us slow down and connect as a family. I love how close we feel emotionally as well as physically. I love the little moments when the twins are playing in the loft, my daughter is playing on the floor, my husband is cooking, and I'm sitting at the table helping my son draw. I love how we are all together.

So maybe I should change the tagline to "Is your life not mindful enough? Buy an RV."

That being said, I'm also looking forward to next month when we have a "real" house again. My husband and I kicked around the idea of living in the RV for at least a few months when he starts school, but neither of us could see it working very well. Maybe it could work if we didn't have kids, but with four school aged children I don't want to deal with the chaos of trying to get them fed and out the door every morning in such a small space.

So within the next month we'll be moving into a rental house in Pocatello, Idaho and getting our stuff out of storage for the first time in 8 months. Sometimes when the RV starts feeling a little small I tell myself, "In just a few more weeks you can sleep in your King Size bed again." That thought keeps me going.

But in the meantime I'm so glad that we've had this chance to live in the RV. It's definitely not something I ever thought I would do, but it has been so enjoyable.

(And it really helps that we have an awesome National Park that we can explore when we start feeling a little confined.)


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