I am Conservative. I am vaccinated.

I hate talking about politics. I always have. Ironically, I now host a weekly Op/Ed Hour on Saturday mornings for the Georgia Radio Reading Service. I make it a personal goal for my listeners to not be able to tell my bias or leanings from my selection of local, state, and national news sources. I am charged with presenting differing viewpoints from a wide range of topics and sources. I am also an Enneagram 9–The Peacemaker. This means that I strive to find commonality among us. I seek out the middle road. I want to build bridges and tear down walls. I just want to love people. Putting this information out there terrifies me because I hate conflict like the plague. Hmm…that was an interesting word choice, Melissa.

Our local hospital, Habersham Medical Center, has recently been charged with complying with the new federal mandate for vaccinating all employees (and volunteers and other stake holders entering the hospital). Yesterday, I accepted the role of interim Chair of the HMC Foundation at the hospital, so this includes me and my fellow board members. On December 6, 2021 any employee who has not received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine will not be able to return to work. When I heard this news, my heart was in my throat. What’s going to happen? As a Christian, I have to trust that God has this. This will put the healthcare of this community and our nation in great jeopardy. God has this. What is my responsibility? Let them hear your heart.

I made the decision to get vaccinated this August. My husband, Kevin, without any prompting from me, was close behind. Our older sons, ages 15 and 12 at the time were considered fully vaccinated before Edwin’s 16th birthday at the beginning of October. Neither of them missed a beat. My little ones, ages 5 and 7 have received their first dose. They will receive their second on November 30–my 46th birthday. Morgan (5) was tired and his arm was sore. Lillie (7) showed no side effects.

All six of us had COVID at the end of February 2021–just in time for Mont’s 12th birthday and spring break. None of us could taste his birthday cake and my four kids spent the evening sucking lemons over the kitchen sink marveling that they could not taste them. We had to cancel our trip to the beach. Our cases were very mild compared to most; not really any fevers or any respiratory symptoms at all. The brain fog was real, however, and it impacted my voice for quite awhile for recording. The most serious lasting effect of the virus on us was with Mont; he still has not regained his sense of smell after nine months. Thankfully, my 71-year-old mom who lives with us did not catch COVID. She stayed isolated in her downstairs apartment. Mom got her vaccine early in the game. Her age, of course, puts her at high risk; she also has COPD.

Like many in our community, we did not initially want the vaccine. We had the virus; we survived it. We had antibodies. I certainly never would have believed that I would have vaccinated my children. So, what changed my mind? For one thing, I got tired of reading about people dying and feeling helpless. I was worried about exposing my mom or our babysitter Lauryn, a Type-1 diabetic, unintentionally to the virus. If my family was responsible for spreading this to someone we loved and they died, I could never forgive myself. What about the people outside of our little bubble, though? What about teachers and kids at our school? What about customers in our store? What about people we meet out and about anywhere that we may want to stop and talk with, share space with, laugh with, cry with? What if I unintentionally got someone I didn’t know sick and they died? Am I responsible if I didn’t do what I could to prevent it? Instead of feeling the need to protect Me and Mine, my heart shifted to protecting everyone.

My kids got vaccines as infants. I held out on a couple of the hepatitis shots until much later (not until they were required to get into school) for three of my four. I reasoned that they weren’t going to be going to any third world countries, exposed to fecal-containing water, or sharing needles with anyone anytime soon. For most of these vaccines, though, I didn’t give them a second thought. I trusted the science that went before me. I trusted the protection that was provided through my parents’ and grandparents’ generations. I remember marveling at my mom’s circle scar on her bicep as a little girl–a lasting reminder that small pox is no longer a threat to my own children. We all had chicken pox as kids. It was a right-of-passage. Now, my kids have been vaccinated against that as well. For those who chose not to vaccinate their kids, there is no real fear of their children contracting these diseases. Their kids are protected by the fact that the majority of those who went before them were vaccinated. This assured that this generation of children, vaccinated or not, will not be crippled by polio. This is the power of the herd.

After all of that, I want to say that I see You. I understand the hold out; I appreciate the fear of being controlled by the government. I hear pastors directly warning us of the Mark of the Beast. Is there anything scarier than that? Who wants to think that they have accepted the Devil’s mark on their body? I’ve seen all the social media posts, too. Sterilization. Early menopause. This side of the coin is promoting its own version of fear.

Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.

Selfishly, I want to travel again. I want to see the world and I want my kids to see it with me. We are going on a cruise over Christmas. Everyone onboard is required to be both vaccinated and tested before sailing. (Children under 12 were exempt, but required two additional tests for a total of three. This is why I pushed to have mine fully vaccinated by our travel date.) Both of my older sons are traveling over spring break–Edwin to Cairo, Egypt and Mont to Catalina Island, CA. Covid and vaccination status are the reality of the world that we live in and I decided to jump through this hoop.

Hear me. You, however, should be free to make a different choice. This is the United States of America.

I want both. I want it all. I want peace. I want this virus to go away and all those taken by it to be back with us. I want seniors and the critically ill to feel safe out in the world. I want doctors and nurses to want to continue saving lives. I want people on the other side of the world to have access to the healthcare that we take for granted. I want you to be okay with me if I choose to vaccinate my kids or if tell you that I am a conservative. I am empowered to be BOTH…and so are You. It’s ok, Friend. I will still love you tomorrow if you choose to hold out or if you jump in. Your vaccine status has no effect on my feelings for you. More than what you think of me, though, I care what God thinks of me. I don’t believe that He loves me any more or any less based on my vaccination status or my political leanings. I am saved by grace through faith and I am clinging to this truth today. The God of the Universe loves me and He’s got this!

Scattered bricks

I awaken and it’s still dark, yet I know that it’s almost time to get up. I go to the bathroom to retrieve my phone…4:35AM. Yes. 25 more minutes. Not enough to go back to sleep, but enough to climb under the covers and review my before-bed temper tantrum. I am aware of the wind chimes and the blustering wind outside whipping against the darkened house; the apologizes that I had to make to my family last night are echoing through my still-foggy brain.

Gentle reader, please let me explain myself. Friday had been built like a fine stack of cards. I had enlisted the help of a mommy friend and a babysitter. I had asked employees to change their schedules and work late. An after-hours community event requires our store to stay open two-and-a-half hours later. My sixth grader is attending a football game an hour away at school (mommy-friend to the rescue). My kindergartener and my second grader need to be gotten from the bus during the event . My daughter then has music lessons (aided by our now-has-a-real-job babysitter). Arrange. Rearrange. How is everyone going to get dinner? All of this on the heels of the older two going with my mom the Thursday night before to see their first real concert–Eric Clapton. Whew. My mind is swirling just typing this all out.

So rewind to last night–Monday night. The week had just begun. All the kids pile in late from school. The older three get home most nights at 7:15PM. Dinner isn’t quite ready; I’d forgotten to pick up the hamburger for the spaghetti. My sweet husband gets it thawing while I fuss at the younger two to get showers–and HURRY. We sit down to a simple supper. The buzz of four children all talking about school fills my ears. This is supposed to be the best time of my day, but I am overwhelmed at the pulls for my attention. This nightly sprint from hometime to bedtime is in full swing.

My teenager has had a difficult week. He lost a friend to suicide and broke up with his first girlfriend. He’s trying to get my attention in that soft mumbly way he has when he needs to tell me something that he thinks that I won’t like. Our only princess interrupts with her loud, take-over-any-room energy. My first explosion. I know immediately that I have messed up because the dinner table falls to a hush. All four of my children and my husband are staring at me. Well, now I can hear the teen. Yes? Sure enough, something I didn’t want to hear. Can we get him to school Friday morning (an hour from our house) by 7AM so he can ride the bus with his classmates to the funeral somewhere in South Carolina? He will be back “late.” My reaction was less-than stellar. I know that this is impossible because I am the card-stacker. I know that we can’t pile one more thing on–Not One. Can’t anyone see that except me? He emotionally reminds me that in two weeks he will be able to drive and I will not ever have to drive him “Anywhere Ever Again.” Does he think parenting stops then?

I collect myself to read a couple of library books that my five-year-old checked out at the school library today and apologize to my daughter for losing my temper and ask for her forgiveness. I excuse myself to take a shower while Kevin reads the Bible story tonight and tucks the littler two in, giving silent thanks for a strong partner who can take up my slack. My sweet husband enters the bathroom asks me if I am feeling better. I start through the list for the week. I organize the whole week on Sunday. I know where all six of us are at all times. I know what we are going to eat and how the groceries will get there. I make sure that the clothes are clean, agendas are signed, snacks are packed, and water bottles are filled. Usually, I do a good job at all of this organizing. “Tonight,” I said, “it feels like confetti thrown up in the air.”

As I lay in bed, another image comes to my mind. I run back into the kitchen to share with my 12-year-old doing homework at the island and my husband who is finishing the dishes. “It’s like someone gave me a 2,000 piece LEGO set. Should be exciting and fun, right? Except, they ripped open all 20 numbered bags and threw the bricks in the air, hid the manual, and told me to build it. That’s what tonight felt like.” My soon-to-be-second teen, nods in acknowledgement. He gets my analogy.

I know that there are lessons here in Grace and Forgiveness and also some parenting wins that can be recognized in the HUGE fails that I made last night. I will need to ponder on those later, though, because now it is 6:09AM. Snacks need to be packed. My four-month old puppy needs to be walked. Agendas need to be signed. Children need to be awakened, fed, and dressed. Another day has begun. Today I have a women’s business meeting and a consult for a colonoscopy. (Yes, I am an old mom on top of all of this.) Probably too much information, but if you have read this far already you may as well know.

Hugs and love to you mamas who may be lost in the mess this morning, too. I see you. Come sit in the LEGO pile with me for awhile; we can have a cup of something warm on this rainy morning.

Beauty in the Broken

Kintsuji. I had to look up the word–but I remembered the concept. This was something that I heard about recently, found intriguing, and filed in my mind for such a time as this. The Japanese have an art that is formed through the repair of broken pottery. The damaged pieces are not hidden, but are accentuated with gold. I found this humbling and a fascinating image of God’s love for us. So…I remembered it.

My Morgan. My Baby. He fell in love with a seashell. There were a couple of hundred shells that were collected on our trip to St. Augustine over Thanksgiving break, but his heart was set on this one special shell. Tonight, Mont stepped on Morgan’s shell and broke it. The three broken shards lay on the rug and Morgan wept. Never mind that there was a bag of hundreds more beside him; nothing would fix that one that was lost.

In my moment of mommy-genius, I recalled the Japanese pottery story. I retold the story of making broken things beautiful again. After I finished my story of redemption, he looked at me and said, “But, Mama…I wanted to give that one to YOU!” I just lost it. Now, we were both crying. I gathered my four-year-old, highly-sensitive son into my arms. We sat on the floor and I rocked him like he was a baby–both of us mourning the loss of this broken seashell. I absorbed his pain and brokenness at the loss and made the decision to feel it with him instead of brushing it aside as insignificant.

Meanwhile, my Lillian…my dear six-year-old daughter, was inspired by my broken-pottery story. She swept up the three little broken pieces and took them to her bedroom. What she came back with mere minutes later brought a fresh well of tears. She had painted the shells with rainbows, put Morgan’s name and his initials…and a heart. Added glitter. Y’all, it was one of the sweetest things ever. I hugged her and told her how much I love her.

I learned so much about my youngest babies tonight. I deeply felt the emotional churn that can fuel Morgan’s temper and his love. He lives life more passionately than most of us. He has Big anger. Big fear. Big love. He actually got so upset tonight that he made himself sick. How do I help him? How do I channel it? How do I love him through it? He can be so intense. I asked him tonight if he could feel my love for him. He assured me that he could.

My daughter. Our princess. She wants to fix everything and make it better. Lillie found the first aid kit on our trip last week. She doctored bug bites, a bee sting, and nearly-invisible cuts. Tonight, Morgan’s heart was broken and she wanted to fix that too. I felt her heart deeply tonight, as well.

I am so thankful for moments like these. Moments that I take the time to stop and note. Lean in a little more. I don’t do it nearly enough. You have to be really close to listen to their little heartbeats. This week was challenging for us on multiple fronts, but I am so thankful that God gave me the opportunity to find this bit of wonder tonight. This Christmas season, I have promised to be kind to myself. We are going to consciously slow down the end of this year instead of speeding toward 2021. I am going to live with gratitude and peace. I will remember the beauty in this broken year.

Wood Family Goes West 2020: Day 11

The first drama of the day: Lillie lost her second tooth. (Well, I pulled it to be exact.) My tough-as-nails daughter can take vaccines, bee stings, and COVID tests without shedding a tear, but tooth-pulling is another story entirely. I begged her to let me pull it. It’s been dangling for several days. I didn’t want to lose it in the car when we didn’t have a way for her to rinse out her mouth. She cried for 20 minutes to me in the bathroom because she was afraid that the boys would call her Snaggle-tooth. Yep. She wasn’t afraid of blood or pain; she was afraid they would hurt her feelings. I gathered all the boys–including my husband–at the base of the stairs and made them faithfully promise that they would not tease her once she widen the gap in her mouth from one tooth to two. Then I told her I would punish them if they broke the promise. Her: “Even Daddy?” Umm… Me: “Yep. I won’t talk to him if he teases you.” Seriously. This is real life, Folks.

Kevin and I ran downtown before checkout time to get coffee. This coffee was SO GOOD. (I drink good coffee, y’all, but I think that this was better then the coffee we had in New York City.) Kiln. They even had really great swag. I picked up an espresso pottery mug for myself.

We left Grand Junction at 10 AM and headed to Vail. Our Airbnb in Vail was in a large resort community. We stayed in a small basement apartment. There were two bedrooms with queen beds and two futons in the living room. We dropped off our bags and went to explore the property.

They had a day-pass for a gondola ride to the top of a large mountain. During the winter, it’s a ski slope. In the summer, bicyclists got dropped off near the top and rode the winding trail down. There were lots of families here, but we just felt like no one was friendly here! The people that worked at the resort were nice enough, but none of the guests interacted at all. I didn’t feel like it was COVID related, either. Other places that we have gone on this trip, we have always found someone that we could interact with…

We took the kids swimming at the resort’s heated pool. That was one of my goals for the day; I knew that it would probably be the only chance that we would get to swim on the trip. By the time we got cleaned up from swimming it was almost 8:00. NOTHING at the resort was still open for dinner! We were shocked. Chicago’s Pizza, a little dive joint, provided a sweet spot for dinner. The owner was working in there by herself and jamming out to Christian music. We found a kindred spirit there immediately.

For the most part, though, we didn’t love Vail. It was beautiful. Don’t get me wrong. We just found the guests very NOT-friendly. Maybe this was just due to our limited time there. If we were to ever come back out West to ski, we would probably choose the Driggs area. Small town. Nice people.

Tomorrow is our last day. We will head to Denver to fly home.

Wood Family Goes West 2020: Day 10

Best Day EVER! (To steal a quote from Tangled…)

We finished up (more) laundry and checked out of our apartment. Subway opened at 10AM and provided us with our picnic lunch again today. The two young guys working in the store were 14 and 15 years old and reminded me of Edwin. One of them was still mostly-asleep at 10 AM. The other took a lot of pride in making our sandwiches well. They were the polar opposites of the teenage-boy stereo-types.

I loved Canyonlands National Park! We stopped at the visitor’s center, stamped my book, and exchanged a park ranger truck that Morgan had bought yesterday. The wheel wouldn’t stay on, but they took it back no problem and gave us a new one. (Most of the gift shops in the National Parks carry the same merchandise.)

The walk to Mesa Arch was short and sweet. 0.5 miles round trip to the overlook. Y’all, it was BREATH-TAKING. That whole area was amazing. My bigger kids practiced their rock-climbing skills on the huge boulders, while Morgan found another beloved rock and stick. I can’t stress the beauty of this spot; I’m sure that my photos won’t do it justice. It’s just impossible to capture the VASTNESS of the space. You can only see such a small part of it through the camera.

The next leg of our trip was the most adventurous thing that we have done so far. We took an unpaved road down to the bottom of a canyon to the Mineral Springs Boat Ramp.  You could see down in the canyon the road winding all the way to the bottom. There were really only two places wide enough to pull over if you met another vehicle. Looking out WAY ahead up or down the mountain, we had to take turns with the couple of cars that were out there with us. I was a nervous wreck, honestly. Kevin told me to relax and enjoy it. Seriously, though, we were on a narrow dirt road with our whole family with a drop off into a canyon just a few feet away. Lillie was screaming, “I don’t want to die at 6!” We managed to make it down and back and lived to tell it. Thankfully.

Tonight, we stayed in the lovely town of Grand Junction, Colorado. It was about an hour and a half from Canyonlands to our Airbnb. The house that we stayed at on Main Street was built in 1907. The owners did a nice job renovating it; they left a scrapbook for their guests showing the process. The house was full of antiques; I stressed to the kids to treat it respectfully. Our kids dined on Chipotle take-out and had a quiet evening watching television. Kevin and I had a DATE NIGHT. We got cleaned up from our dusty day and walked downtown to dinner. It was nice to be able to snag a little bit of one-on-one with my guy!

The kids were all still snuggled up together on the couch when we got back. The older boys got showers and headed to bed. Oh, I want to mention that most places out here do not have central air conditioning. In both Driggs, ID and in Colorado we have opened windows and used fans. Other place have had window units. I assume that it’s just not worth putting in central air for the two months of the year that they would use it. (Moab, however, had air conditioning. Man, it’s hot in Moab!)

Internet connectivity has been hit-or-miss on this trip. I had tried to write these blogs and add the photos in between the sketchy service through the desert and other remote areas. I noticed that there are a couple of errors, where sentences were left hanging here and there. I didn’t have the time to proof-read, really. This has been a good challenge for me, though, writing daily.


Wood Family Goes West 2020: Day 9

I Got Poop! This is the worst name for a porta-potty company ever…

We left the Kimball at Temple Square and headed toward Moab before 8:00 AM. We stopped at what would have been a pretty neat rest stop–great views and even had a train–had the bathrooms been open. They were closed; I Got Poop stands lined the parking lot. Great. Who thought that was a good company name? Does it mean that the porta-potty has poop or the consumer has poop? Either way, UGHHHHH!!!!

On the road again…

Stopped for lunch at another rest stop. We had picked up Subway sandwiches in Moab before we left and ate just before we got to Arches National Park at a covered table at the rest stop. It was just over 100 degrees out and no natural shade. Nice lunch break, though!

At Arches, we started at the visitor’s center. I wasn’t planning on getting the kids any more junk, but they had a stuffed pika–Lillian’s favorite animal. I just had to get it for her. I don’t know of any other place to get a stuffed pica. She was thrilled and named it Peanut. Peanut quickly became the new star of our pictures.

Kevin, Edwin, Mont, and Lillian took the short hike to the Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint. I waited in the car with Morgan; he was a little grump. Winding around to the northern point of the park, the main park road connected to an unpaved dirt road. We love a dirt road! Arches has lots of optional dirt road trails. The park map is clearly marked showing unpaved 2-wheel drive roads and, also, the rougher 4-wheel drive roads. Our rental car has 4-wheel drive, so we did attempt one of those roads in the Salt Valley area, but it was too much for our Ford Expedition. We would have needed a Jeep and, of course, we can’t all fit in a Jeep. It was still a fun side trip.

Exiting the park, we headed on the few miles to Moab. I was really excited for the kids to see the Airbnb that I had reserved. It was a 2 bedroom/2 bathroom apartment with a CLIMBING WALL in the master bedroom and a FOUR-STORY BUNKBED in the second bedroom. It was one of the most unique places I have ever stayed. Mont scrambled to claim the top bunk and figured out how to slide down the fireman’s pole.

I bathed Lillie and Morgan while Kevin went to the grocery to refresh our water supply and pick up Thai food. The kids and I laid my bed and watched highlights from America’s Got Talent–I NEVER watch television at home. Oh, then Morgan walked out on the balcony and peed off the second floor to the sidewalk below. Oh, my word. Someone help me with this child! Other than that, it was a quiet evening and we all went to bed early. (Well, Mont just informed me that he, Lillian, and Edwin did NOT go to sleep early. Maybe, it was just me. I went to bed early, then.)

Wood Family Goes West 2020: Day 8

Checkout was at 10:00 AM. Kevin and I got up early to drive back to the overlook to watch the sunrise over the backside of Grand Teton. The air was cool, but there was a warm breeze. It seemed so strange and opposite of what we normally experience in the South.

The next couple of hours were a little rough going. A slow leak in one of the rental car tires turned out to be due to a rock stuck in one of the treads. Kevin prepared to take it into town to get repaired while I repacked and got the kids bathed. Before he left, I went to switch our last load to the dryer…and discovered a nighttime pull-up that had exploded in the washing machine. UGH! I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, but it’s like slimy snow that sticks to everything. I took all the clothes out of the washer; Kevin helped me shake them out off of the porch. Then I had to clean out the washing machine and run all of the clothes again. What a pain! The boys were a huge help getting everything ready to go: packing, washing dishes, taking out the trash, and carrying the suitcases down three flights of stairs for me. We were on the road by 9:30 AM!

Kevin stopped briefly to look at a some regionally made fishing boats; he and Mont went inside while the rest of us waited in the car. We stopped for lunch in Idaho Falls at Scotty’s Drive-in restaurant. While we were sitting at a picnic table, a car pulled up behind us with three men inside. One got out and accidentally locked the other two in the car. He walked up to order for them inside. One of the other men opened the door and set off the alarm. We all jumped; the little ones covered their ears. Mont was screaming. The gentlemen in the car couldn’t get the alarm off. It went off for at least five minutes. Another customer eating outside went in to find the driver. He couldn’t get it off; pushing buttons on the key fob, he got it beeping faster. It sounded like it was going to explode. It was all quite comical. Everyone was so relieved when it shut off; we were laughing hysterically.

The Golden Spike National Historic Park in Utah is three-and-a-half hours away and on the way to Salt Lake City. This is where the Transcontinental Railroad came together in 1869. I couldn’t tell from the website exactly which parts of the park are available right now, but I’m hopeful that we will be able to see one of the historic trains working. Morgan, my four-year-old, LOVES trains.


Man, it was hot out there! 100 degrees. The visitor’s center was closed, but the bookstore was open. The park has been able to maintain operations throughout COVID-19 because it is almost entirely an outdoor park. There are two working replica trains–one coal powered and one wood powered. During scheduled times of the day, conductors move the trains while a ranger talks about the machines and the history of the West as the Transcontinental Railroad was being built.

The park also has a couple of driving trails where the tracks ran with stops along the way preserving the history. We took the East auto tour. The 2-mile  narrow dirt road took us past areas that were blasted, a natural arch that is a memorial to the Chinese people who built much of the rails, and down the steepest part of the rail line in Utah.

We continued on to Salt Lake City to The Kimball on Temple Square. This hotel is in a historic building that converted apartments into time-share optional apartments. It was an odd set-up. It was across the street from Temple Square, the beautiful home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–the Morman Church. It was so dated that we found it comical–like staying at grandma’s house. Kevin thought that the bedsheets were from the 40s. It was clean enough, though. A one-night stay with a separate bedroom and bathroom for Edwin and Mont were positive features. (After reading this back to Kevin, he didn’t feel like I emphasized DATED enough. “Like 1991. Red velvet carpet. Did you tell them about the red velvet carpet?” OK, Y’all. REALLY dated. Can you tell that the dated-ness bothered Kevin more than it bothered me?)

Kevin wanted a nice dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, but I felt like Morgan was just spent. He was wild and I knew that dinner would NOT be pleasant. We ate at this mostly-closed food court inside a mostly-closed mall. Chick-fil-A was the only restaurant open in the food court. They flipped the lights out on us at 8:00pm sharp and started putting the chairs up on the tables. OK, guess it’s time to go.

We went to bed early with a goal of 7AM departure time for Arches National Park. Oh, for what it’s worth, I miss my pillow.

Wood Family Goes West 2020: Day 7

Pica and Pika. (That’s what Edwin said I should name this post.)

This morning we chilled. Seriously, I went back to bed after breakfast. We continued working through the laundry and the kids had more home-made donuts from Yeti Post and watched TV.

Late morning, we headed over the pass away from the “quiet side” of the Tetons to Jackson Hole into Grand Teton National Park. Lunch in Jackson was at a Mexican taqueria called Pica. Lunch was good, but it was the only thing that we got out of the car for in Jackson. It was so crowded! (Thank you, Paul, for the advise to stay in Driggs instead.)

After lunch, we went to the visitor’s center at Grand Teton National Park. It had some cool exhibits. Lillie especially liked the animal footprint signs on the floor encouraging social distancing. She found one for a pika–a small mouse that lives in this area. Lillie told a nurse last week during a test that a pika was her favorite animal. (I can about guarantee that I have the ONLY six-year old who’s favorite animal is a pika.) We bought souvenirs in the gift shop. (Limit of 15 customers at a time in the store.) The cashier was also from Georgia–in between Columbus and Macon. (Kevin called her out on her accent.)

Pica and Pika. Get it?

Victor, a tiny town in between Jackson and Driggs, is home to the huckleberry milkshake at the Emporium. Our neighbors at the duplex advised that we stop there on the way back to Driggs. All the ice cream was ordered at a window out the side of the building and they delivered it to a picnic table outside. I had a butterscotch shake. Yum!

Grand Targhee Ski Lodge is only about 20 minutes from where we are staying, so we took a ride up there. We missed the ski lift; it stopped running at 4:30 PM. A beautiful overlook on the way back down to Driggs provided amazing views, a great climbing tree, and privacy. Kevin asked me if I would come back up there with him tomorrow to watch the sunrise. Of course, I said, “Yes!”


Wood Family Goes West 2020: Day 6

This morning I woke up early to go and get some of the home-made donuts from Yeti Post. (See yesterday’s blog for more information.) I went to the take-out window, donned my mask, and ordered some delicious breakfast fare to take back to my crew.

I caught up on our laundry; we generate a lot of dirty clothes in five days. During breakfast, I got four splinters in my hand from the picnic table on the porch. While Kevin was helping me get them out, we met the neighbors on the other side of our duplex. Not only are they from Georgia, but they are UGA graduates! The wife, Susie, was one of the original Gym Dogs from 1973 and the husband, Craig, was a walk-on freshman for the Dawgs in football in 1965. Susie and I also graduated from the same college within UGA. She was a home-economics major which got folded into the College of Family and Consumer Sciences–my undergraduate college. They told us that the owners of our side of the duplex live in Monroe, Georgia and the owners of the duplex next door are from Alpharetta, Georgia. Small world!

We had reservations for a private rafting trip with Teton Scenic Float Tours. We drove less than an hour to the boat ramp where we met up with Mark, our guide and the owner of the company. This was a great option for our family; they are the only company that will take children under six years old down the Snake River. He designed the seats on the boat to accommodate families with younger kids.

Guess what we saw??? LOTS of BALD EAGLES. I bet we saw 20 different eagles. It was awesome. Mark pointed out the huge nests as we passed. He offered three pairs of binoculars to us so that we could get a closer look as we floated right underneath the awesome birds.

We rafted about seven miles down the river and stopped for a picnic lunch on a sandbar. The kids collected rocks and looked for tadpoles. It was so much fun!

The total trip was 14 miles and took us three hours. I reapplied sunscreen constantly and no-one got terribly burned. Mama win! It’s supposed to be easier to get a sunburn here. The elevation is 6,000 ft above sea level. (At home, our elevation is 1,400 ft.) Edwin and Mont were able to get out of the raft and hold on for a bit during the end of the ride. The water was so cold! Kevin and I held Morgan and Lillie over the edge so that they could dip their feet in the water, too.

Back at the house, we figured out where we wanted to eat dinner. The Royal Wolf in Driggs made the final cut. We ended up eating inside as there was a wait for patio seating. This restaurant required masks when moving around inside. The menu provided lots of options–Kevin had a some pork “wings;” I had ravioli; Edwin had a Philly cheese steak sandwich. (Kevin wants me to add that the French fries made with Idaho potatoes were amazing.) Another “small world” moment. There was a Widespread Panic poster hanging in the restaurant. Widespread Panic started in my hometown of Athens. The lead singer of the band frequents Clarkesville; his wife has a business there, too.



Wood Family goes West: Day 5

Today we went from Cody, Wyoming to Driggs, Idaho via Yellowstone National Park. Kevin, Edwin, and Mont went early to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West before we left Cody. I stayed at the cabin bathing Lillie and Morgan and packing up. Kevin said that you could spend all day at the museum, but they breezed through parts of it in an hour and a half. They saw the gun collection, history of Buffalo Bill, and art of the West.

We entered Yellowstone through the East Entrance. There were quite a few visitor’s centers, restrooms, and other facilities closed in the park due to the pandemic. We picked up some sandwiches and lunchables from a general store inside of the park. A lady working at the store recommended our picnic spot–an area behind the closed Grant Village visitor’s center. We had an unobstructed view of the West Thumb section of Yellowstone Lake all to ourselves. A ranger outside of the center gave me a piece of paper with the passport stamp on it since the visitor’s center is closed.

After lunch, we headed up to Old Faithful. This spot was definitely a bottle-neck for the crowds. There were lots of benches around the geyser-watching area. It was very hot and sunny with no shade. Then, GUESS WHAT HAPPENED? (You Mamas probably already know.) We waited for about 30 minutes. It was about five minutes before the next predicted eruption time…and Morgan had to pee. Yep. He loudly declared, “Mama!!!! I’m about to pee myself!!!” Great. Kevin, having seen the Old Faithful eruption before, heroically offered to take him to the restroom. They got back to us during the last 30 seconds of the eruption. It took a couple of minutes to get out of the parking lot during the mass exodus. Check that off of my bucket list.

We headed northwest toward the Meyer Geyser Basin–looking for the Grand Prismatic Spring. After pulling off into the parking lot that we thought led there, we headed up the trail to nowhere. (Well, I think in actuality it led to Fairy Falls, but we didn’t make it that far.) Morgan had a meltdown about 20 minutes into our hike, dug in his heels, and refused to go any farther. I sat down with him on the side of the path and sent the others onward. I don’t think they made it much farther before they realized that the trail did not lead to the Grand Prismatic Spring. They turned around and met back up with Morgan and me. We never did find it. There were other smaller springs along the way, though, that were pretty. If you want to see an actual picture of the Grand Prismatic Spring, though, you will have to do as we did and Google it.

It was 4:30pm when we got back to the car and we estimated that it would be 2 1/2 hours to where we were staying in Driggs. After exiting Yellowstone through the West Entrance, we passed through Montana into into Idaho.

I need to add here that we STILL have not seen many animals. We saw a lone female elk today right after lunch. She walked across the parking lot making some loud, crazy noises–like she was calling to her baby or something. Anyway, she was very cool…but really the only interesting animal that I saw today.

Everyone was excited about the Airbnb rental that we are staying in for the next three nights. The kids are really happy to each have their own bed. No one will have to sleep with a sibling for the next three nights! By the time we rolled into our rental in Driggs, it was almost 8:00pm and we had not had dinner. There are ZERO chain restaurants in Driggs. I called the only place that I could find that served pizza; they said that they were only doing dine-in that evening–no take-out. I thought, “Seriously, you don’t want me to bring my kids into your place right now!”

Anyway, our saving grace this evening came from a little food stand called Yeti Post. They only serve dinner on Friday nights. (Yay for Friday!) Normally, their fare consists of home-made donuts and brunch food from 7AM-2PM. Friday nights, they serve one plate for a set price. We had BBQ with teriyaki sauce, jasmine rice, slaw, and a coconut custard cake for dessert. Eating on the picnic table on the back porch felt like the perfect ending for the day.

After driving for WAY too many hours today, we made a change to our itinerary. Tomorrow, we are going on a rafting trip down the Snake River in the Grand Teton area. The third day, we were going to go back into Yellowstone but, we decided to spend it in Grand Teton National Park. It’s 2 1/2 hours back to the West Gate of Yellowstone. It’s just too far. The Tetons are gorgeous! It’s an agreeable change of plans.