Thursday, December 22, 2011

it's the most wonderful time of the year

It's almost Christmas! School is out, there's family, friends, all kinds of yummy food, and- in typical Alabama fashion- lots of rain instead of snow.  I have officially finished Christmas shopping, and I am more happy about that this year than I ever have been.  You see, I have found that I have less patience for crowds and traffic this year than I ever have.  I can only assume Baby Cooper does not like crowds either because we were both pretty irritated during our last couple days of shopping, and he/she was reminding me often of how tiring shopping can be.

Speaking of Baby Cooper, here's a quick update:  our 12 week appointment was on Dec 14.  Everything still looks great!  The heartbeat was 170 bpm; still strong and healthy.    I think I have determined that heartbeat is the best sound I've ever heard in my life.   My next appointment is three weeks from yesterday.  In the meantime, I think I am over the sickness I had between 10 and 12 weeks, and now can enjoy all this wonderful Christmas food! Beau has been teasing me because at every Christmas party we've been to this year, I've been first in the food line.  But, here's my theory:  people always hesitate to be first because they don't want to look like a pig, when in reality, everyone loves when someone starts the food line because then they can get in the line too!  Also, I've found that being pregnant not only makes me too hungry to wait on some brave soul to start the food line, it gives me an automatic reason to start the line.

I do believe Christmas is my favorite time of year.  Lots of family time, lots of laughter, lots of catching up. So far, my family has spent time sharing memories and playing Balderdash (best board game ever).  The guys talk about football, movies, and share random facts that nobody needs to know, but we all find them interesting anyway.

I love Christmas with Beau's parents too!  We have a tradition with them that we open presents, eat some good food, and go see a Christmas day movie.  Christmas with the Coopers also made me understand why Beau is so bad a keeping surprises.  He and his mother are so much alike :)  So far, Susanne Cooper has given me three of my smaller Christmas presents that she was planning to give me Christmas day, but couldn't wait.  You might think that I would get less presents on Christmas because of that, however, Beau has informed me that she will simply go and get more presents to replace those three on Christmas day.  It makes it sound like she's just forgetful, but I believe she is one of the most giving people I have ever known.

Most of all, with both mine and Beau's family, I love the fact that Christmas is focused on the sole reason for the holiday.  I love that we were both brought up in amazing families whose traditions revolve around the birth of Christ our Savior.  And I love that our baby will be able to share in those same traditions next Christmas.

I pray that my family and yours will have a blessed Christmas this year, and that we never forget why we celebrate. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

the heart of life

     Well, I'm sure you've all heard we are embarking on our biggest, most exciting expedition yet... Beau and I are going to have a baby!  We are so excited! Let me give you a little back story...  On October 20th, we found out I was pregnant.  That same day, I scheduled my 8 week appointment at the doctor.  This was to be the appointment that we were hopefully going to hear the heartbeat for the first time.  I quickly informed Beau that, besides our parents, we do not need to tell ANYONE until that appointment is complete and everything looks- and sounds- like it should.

     And so began the most difficult test my husband's patience has ever endured.  At least once a day for the next three(ish) weeks his favorite thing to say was, "So, can we tell people yet?"  We were counting down the days.  Those of you who know our family know that this is how it went:

Beau:  Can't keep surprises, so this was worse than Christmas, my birthday, and the desire to spoil a great movie ending all wrapped into one.
My Mom (Anne):  Also wanted to tell pretty badly but as an alternative, already started thinking of Grandmother names and bought me a diaper bag
Beau's Mom (Susanne):  Almost as bad as Beau when it came to wanting to tell.  Her quote was, "the second yall start telling people, you better let me know cause I wanna tell everyone too!"
My Brother (Joe):  Couldn't tell his best friend John, so instead he told the next best option- a dog.
My Dad, Beau's Dad, and Myself (all can be lumped into one on this):  While we were all VERY excited and glad to share the good news when the time was right, but we were able to keep the surprise.  There was no anguish in keeping a secret, simply the knowledge that we would share when the time was right.

     We all did, however, survive the wait.  On November 16th Beau and I went to the doctor and luckily they didn't make me wait long.  Almost as soon as the ultrasound showed up on the screen, we got to see all 1.52cm of our baby.  We got to see it's little heart fluttering and we got to hear all 176 beats per minute.  I also got to hear the nurse say, "That sounds like a good, strong heartbeat for 8 weeks."  That was probably the best thing she could've told me at that moment.

     The rest of the day was spent telling our family, friends, and co-workers the good news.  We told the same story and answered the same questions about 1000 times.

 "When's the due date?" - June 29
"How long have you known?"- About 3-4 weeks
"How are you feeling?"- Pretty great.  No real morning sickness.  As long as I don't let myself get hungry, I feel good.
"When do you find out if it's a boy or girl?" - Probably the end of January or beginning of February

     There were many more topics of discussion, but Beau and I enjoyed discussing this topic as much as everyone wanted to. :)  We also want to say to everyone, thank you all for your kind words and excitement and most importantly, prayers! We are blown away with how blessed we are to have so many people in our lives who love us so much!  And please know, that we love you too!  Let the countdown for baby Cooper begin! :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

in between days

To summarize...

Fall arrived and it came with some color.

Went to an Auburn game and I didn't hate it.  They beat Ole Miss 41-23.  They moved up from my 12th favorite team in the SEC to my 11th favorite team in the SEC.  Way to go wife, you pulled one over on me.  Plus the free tickets, free food and free place to stay didn't hurt either (we had free skybox tickets!)

Sarah and her mom started a photography business.  Maple Leaf Photography.  I designed the logo, pretty proud of that.  They've also got a facebook page, so check 'em out if you've got a spare minute.

Went to Arkansas for the Inaugural Oldtee event.  Still not 100% sure what that means, but it did involve good friends, camping, memories and a little bit of cold weather.  Plus the Park Ranger told us to quiet down.  That's the official sign of a good time, getting threatened to be shut down by Johnny Law.  We even successfully cooked biscuits over an open flame.  #goodtimes

Again with the ugly field.  Adam took us to a UCA game and the sunset actually made the field bearable for a few short seconds.  Had to snap this shot.  Franchione was coaching Texas State which made me consider shouting obscenities his way, but I refrained.

I bet I see you sooner than you expect....

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

the curse of comfort

It's August and it's hot.  The only place to escape the heat is in the water, hence the reason for some of our newest purchases:

We live a block from the river, why has it taken us over a year to realize this?  Anyway, we're in the midst of making amends for our actions.

Also, we got a new car for our expeditions.  Introducing the aptly named Tara the Xterra:

16 days until football season.
School has started.
Sarah is the head volleyball coach this year.
Lots of things have happened in the last month.

Short update?  Yes.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

all these things that i've done

The Final Tally:

17 states
6,500 miles (2 oil changes)
25 National Parks/Monuments/Historic Sites

The last 2 weeks don't make sense.  It's bizarre to me that we were at the Grand Canyon just a week ago and the only reason we were there is because we drove 14 hours out of our way.  And the 14 hours we drove out of our way didn't even seem abnormal, it was the norm for this trip.  Days, dates and states all run together like a dream.  It feels like a month since we've been home and at the same time, like it was just yesterday.  I'm glad Sarah kept a detailed journal & photographic record of what we did because without it, I'm not sure I'd be able to remember it all.  About 15 minutes away from home, Sarah turned the iPod to "Sweet Home Alabama."  I've seen some unbelievable things and had a great time along the way, but it's always good to be home.

Thanks to all who read and followed along on our "expedition."  Every kid at some point is asked what they want to be when they grow up, and it's always some extraordinary job that few ever get to live out.   I always wanted to be an explorer, and for the last 2 weeks I was allowed to live that out.  And I got to live it out with my best friend.  That's pretty hard to beat.   We're already looking forward to our next adventure which we are tentatively calling The "Maine" Tour.  If everything works out right, it will be next summer.  Here's a couple more pictures from the trip.  I'm sure Sarah will be adding a few thousand to facebook soon.

"Is this the end or did we ever really start,
It’s not the wheels, but the road that makes us who we are," 

Wandering Ways - Adam Hambrick

Friday, July 15, 2011

wandering ways

Sorry, no update last night.  We did arrive in Conway, AR around 6:30 yesterday evening.   We drove from Kansas City, MO. where we stayed night before last, and drove to Conway.  We made a little detour  to see the final home of Laura Ingalls Wilder in Mansfield, MO.  I have to admit, as a child, I loved watching the Little House on the Prairie TV series.  Seeing that her house where she wrote the books was so near our route, I had to stop. 

After seeing the house, we drove to the Hambricks’ house, and went to Little Rock to eat at a place called Gauchos.  We probably all gained about five pounds, due to the fact that they brought you unlimited varieties of meat and sides.  It’s a Brazilian buffet brought to your table.   

After driving all day, being extremely full, and having watched an hour of TV with Adam and Merritt, Beau and I were beyond tired.  Hence, no blog last night.  After about 10 hours of sleep last night, we are ready to spend the day doing something fun in Arkansas.   Adam has mentioned a stop at the best fried chicken restaurant ever.   Sounds good to me.    

Sorry there aren't many pictures from yesterday.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

chasing cars

We woke up this morning with not much of a plan and decided to head east to Minnesota.  Once we arrived, we decided we might as well keep going and see Minneapolis and St. Paul too.  Once we got to the Twin Cities, we decided that since we we're so close, we might as well press on and head into Wisconsin and check another state off the list.

Side note:  Beau and I are cooperatively and competitively trying to go to all 50 states.  So far I’m winning the competition 37 states to Beau’s 30.  On the cooperative side of it, on this trip alone, we will have seen at least 17 states.  (Some we’ve both already seen before, but 17 in one trip is a big accomplishment.)

Anyway, back to today.  We stopped first at Pipestone National Monument.  I never realized pipes were such an integral part of our nation’s history, but apparently both Minnesota and our US government think so.  Here we saw that the Indians began making pipes years before anyone else had ever heard of them.  Soon after, settlers and traders began using, making, and trading them, and thus became quite the unhealthy and yet historical American tradition.

Next was the drive through Minnesota to get to Minneapolis.  I have to be honest, we’ve started running out of things to do/read/listen to in the car to keep us entertained.  Therefore, we decided to have some fun by throwing bagels out the window today.  Did I really say bagels?  Yes.  You see, two weeks ago we packed down our car with enough provisions to last throughout the trip.  Of course we overestimated how much food we would need.  This morning I discovered that the 4 bagels had left were stale.   Nobody likes a stale bagel, so let the fun begin.   After a couple of distance and accuracy tries each, we were quickly out of bagels.  While it was short lived, it was a fun activity for the Coopers and a yummy snack for some lucky animals.  Quite the win-win. 

Next, was our stop at the Twin Cities.  We saw the Metrodome (The Vikings Field), the Twins new baseball stadium, as well as many of the downtown areas.  We then took a short detour into Wisconsin.  While in Wisconsin, we decided we had to have some form of dairy product.  I had some Coldstone ice cream and Beau had a Frappuccino from Starbucks.  We can confirm that they have correctly nicknamed their state “America’s Dairyland”.  It was some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. 

The next definite stop is Conway, Arkansas to visit the Hambricks’ for a couple of days.  On the way there, who knows?

Since we didn't have too many things to take pictures of today, I'll throw in a couple of randoms, including the worlds largest prarie dog statue.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

when the day met the night

What a fun day we had today!  We left Black Hawk this morning and went to Mount Rushmore.  We were even able to see Gutzon Borglum’s (the creator of the memorial) sculptor’s studio.  In the studio,  there was a 1:12 scale model of the memorial and we were able to learn a little more about the history of it. 
After Mt. Rushmore, we drove to the Badlands.  It is a beautiful National Park that some people compare to the surface of the moon because it is the only other place where formations like those occur.  We entered the Park through the south entrance that belonged to the Lakota Indian Tribe, and drove north into the US National Park area.  We learned that the Badlands get its name from French trappers traveling through the area in the 1700’s.  They had such a hard time making their way through the land because of the strange rock that crumbled very easily and was difficult to travel on.  They were so frustrated with the area, that they named it Badlands. 

While going through the Badlands we saw wildlife, beautiful and very different scenery, and even walked around and climbed on some of the formations.  It was almost like climbing around on giant sandcastles. 
After leaving the Badlands, we went to eat lunch at Wall Drugstore in Wall, SD…”The Friendly Town.”  Beau and I decided to stick with the regional cuisine and have buffalo burgers.  We’d also heard great things about their doughnuts, so why not?  Two homemade, deep fried, chocolate covered doughnuts please!  And boy, were they good.

We then made a short stop at the Delta 09 Minuteman Missile Site.  This site was one of many that the US used to house nuclear warheads during the Cold War.  The site dispelled many myths about the minuteman missile project such as:  none of the sights were top secret and it took four people to turn the keys to launch the missile.  With Beau and I both having degrees related to history, we really enjoyed this stop.
Finally, we decided we would stop at an old 1880’s Western town.  We found out that the town was put together in 1989.  However, all the buildings in the town came from other towns, and each building was an actually dated anywhere from the 1880’s to early 1900’s.  It was put together as an homage to the old west, and is a way for tourists to experience what an actual 1880’s town used to be like.   It was so much fun!  We were able to go inside the buildings, sit on the wagons and stagecoaches, and in the town hotel you could even see spur marks from cowboy boots on the stairs.  The town saloon functioned as a concession stand, but used to be an actual working saloon in the early 1900’s.  There was a church, a doctor/dentist’s office above the mercantile, a school house, and so much more. 

Another neat thing about this particular town, was that it had many of the actual props from the movie Dances with Wolves.  For example:  a teepee from the Indian tribe, the wagon train, the log cabin he lived in, various costumes and weaponry, and even the original movie script and behind the scenes pictures.  Kevin Costner’s horse in the movie (Cisco) was even buried nearby. 

As mentioned earlier in the blog, it was quite a fun day; probably one of our favorites of the entire trip.  We discovered some more of America’s history and got to step back into time and feel like we were a part of it.  Tonight, we will drive as far as we can and see where we end up.  Agenda for tomorrow?  We have none.

Monday, July 11, 2011

i will follow you into the dark

 4,400 miles down, who knows how many to go.

After leaving Yellowstone, we thought we'd have a boring drive to our next destination.  Wrong.  We went through Bighorn National Forest.  The mountains were beautiful, there were rivers and lakes, amazing canyon walls, about 1,000 deer, and MOOSE! I don't really know why, but we've really wanted to see another moose ever since we saw one in Jackson Hole.  Well, throughout the forest we saw 5 more.  It was a beautiful and entertaining drive.

Every trip has that moment, the one where you get a little homesick.  It happened last night somewhere between Interstate 90 and Main St. in Sheridan, WY.  Probably because we seriously considered sleeping in our car.  After driving around Sheridan for a while, we realized that the town must think very highly of itself.  Although it is basically in the middle of nowhere, they somehow believe that they are a metropolis that should charge ridiculous prices for a hotel.  At around midnight, we finally bit the bullet and payed the discounted price of $80 for a Quality Inn.  I guess that's better than the $100 for the Super 8.  Oh well, you gotta do what you gotta do.

The morning brought with it the results of a good night's sleep and therefore a better outlook.  It also helped take care of that homesickness.  After we got our money's worth at the hotel's breakfast, we set out for western South Dakota.  On the way to SD, we stopped at Devil's Tower National Monument in WY.  If you're not familiar with Devil's Tower, it is basically the inside of an old volcano (that's what Beau told me anyway) there is a picture at the bottom of this post, and if you're still curious I should reference the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

South Dakota, although very pretty and containing a lot of attractions, was not quite as exciting due to some rain.  We planned to visit Jewel Cave and Wind Caves, as well as Mount Rushmore, but the only one we successfully saw today was Jewel.  We do plan to see the other two, as well as the Badlands, tomorrow.

Although the rain did put a little bit of a damper on things today, we were still able to stop off at the Cosmos Mystery Area in Keystone, SD.  It was a mystery because the building on the land had a "special force" that made everything appear to be slanted in a different direction, or taller when it was really shorter.  Beau did point out that it was an optical illusion.  Although he is, of course, correct, I enjoyed believing that is was some crazy place that has some cosmic energy that makes only that one spot on earth behave that way.  Much more fun.  (There is a picture after the post of our guide for the Cosmos area and another lady from our group)

Thanks to a gift card from Mom and Dad for Beau's birthday, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Outback before getting settled into Black Hawk, SD for the night.  Tomorrow:  Discover South Dakota.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

eight days a week

No blog yesterday because we have been in Yellowstone the past two days.  I’m pretty sure there was no internet access anywhere in the park…and that is a big park!  So, to catch up from yesterday, I will start with Saturday morning.  We finally slept in until about 7:00 and got some much needed rest. Yes, 7:00 is sleeping in for this trip.  The drive wasn’t long to Yellowstone, so we got there by late morning.  Before we could even set up our campsite, we saw some elk and buffalo.  The buffalo were on the side of the road, so they were very close to the cars.  We even saw a Black Bear!  He was less than 100 feet away, and I thought Beau wanted to jump out of the car and run over to him, he was so excited.  If he had, I would’ve been right behind him with the pepper spray.  I’m pretty sure we were able to see every wild animal Yellowstone had to offer, minus the wolves.  It was amazing! 

On Saturday, we drove the north loop of the park and saw Norris Geyser Basin and Mammoth Springs.  As soon as we stepped out of the car, the smell of sulpher let us know we were in the right place.  There were some really cool geysers on the 1 ½ mile walk through Norris; all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors.  After our day discovering the north loop, we headed back to our campsite in the middle of Yellowstone, and, of course, had some smores!  Beau had something he likes to call Rees'mores.  Instead of Hershey chocolate, he uses Reese's cups.  He's working on a patent as I type this.  

One thing we hadn’t really taken note of was how much cooler the temperature had gotten as the day went on.  As we got settled in our tent for what felt like a cool, crisp autumn evening, the night quickly became what felt like a cold winter’s night.  I soon came to realize that my sleeping bag was not nearly warm enough for the 30 degree temperature.  I vividly remember waking up at one point and telling Beau that I was pretty sure I had hypothermia….but I wasn’t kidding at the time.  When we woke up and realized the mountain peaks had fresh snow on them, the realization began to set in that the strange sounding rain I thought I heard the night before was actually sleet.  Hmmm…maybe I was right about the hypothermia, and I just recovered really quickly. 

Due to the lack of sleep, we decided we may as well go ahead and head out into the park and see what the early morning had to offer.  Good decision!  Almost as soon as we set out on the south loop of the park, we came across two huge buffalo walking in the road.  As soon as we saw each other, we stopped the car, and the buffalo paused.  The first buffalo kept walking directly at our car, almost as if to say (in a very Clint Eastwood voice, I imagine) “Get off my road.”  However, he and his counterpart eventually conceded defeat.  The lead buffalo went so close to the driver side of the car, that Beau could’ve easily reached out to touch him, but I begged him to roll the window back up so he wouldn’t get gored.  The other walked a couple feet away from the car on my side.  It was definitely worth waking up early!

The Southern Loop, in the Coopers’ opinion, was much prettier than the Northern Loop.  On this loop, we saw the beautiful Yellowstone Lake, quite a few more geysers, Grand Prismatic Spring, and Old Faithful.  As we all know, Old Faithful has its name for a reason, which explains why so many people flock to it.  However, if you get there after it as erupted, you have to wait a good hour to an hour and a half until it erupts again.  Beau & I drove circles around the parking lot looking for a place to pull in, but had no luck.  Finally, after a few minutes, we parked on a curb, and began racing to where we saw everyone standing.  As soon as we rounded the corner, it began smoking and then erupting!  We could not have had better timing.  After lunch at the Old Faithful Lodge, and walking around the historic Old Faithful Inn, we began making our way out of Yellowstone.  We had originally planned four days in the park, however, we didn’t realize we could see everything in two full days.  Plus, it will be nice not to get hypothermia again tonight. 

Tomorrow, we really don’t have an agenda.  I guess we’ll pull our best Lewis & Clark impersonation and see what else we can discover.  

Friday, July 8, 2011

running on empty

Friday:  Woke up at 4:30, got ready and left Logan.  We arrived in Jackson Hole around 9:30.  During the drive, we realized that Idaho looked like pictures we’d seen of Ireland with the rolling green hills.  It is much more beautiful than we’d imagined.   Of course, we haven’t come across any blue football fields, so if we do, that may change our mind.

The drive was interesting with lakes, green fields, mountains surrounding us, and cattle crossing the roads.  Apparently it’s common out here to not have fences for livestock, because we saw at least four cows standing in the road as we drove through.  They were not too eager to move either, I might add.
When we got to Jackson Hole, WY. we stopped at the visitor center, gathered some information, then walked around town for a little while.  We bought some chocolate for $8.00 (“worth it?” you ask…..definitely). 

Next was our visit to Grand Teton National Park.  It was gorgeous.  Snow covered mountains surrounded us.  Beautiful lakes reflected perfectly the peaks that stood in front of us.  The amazing and different thing about the Tetons is how the mountains rise directly out of the earth with no foothills or even a hint that they are going to be there.  Although they are not as tall as some we saw in Colorado, they are just as majestic, if not more so. 

Ever since Beau lived in Colorado in 2007, he has wanted to see a moose.  I guess you could say it has been on his bucket list.  Well, he can officially check that one off.  As we were about to drive over the Teton Pass, just west of Jackson Hole and into Idaho, traffic literally came to a stop.  There was a moose drinking out of a pond on the left side of the road, and an eagle’s nest on the right.  Quite a sight to see. 

We decided to stay in a cabin in Victor, ID for the night.  Victor:  A town that may only be known for being next to Driggs, ID.  I also believe Driggs may only be known for being the home to the largest man-made potato. What does that say about Victor?  I’ll let you decide.

Tomorrow,  we head to Yellowstone to camp for a few days and do lots of hiking.  We can’t wait to see more of God’s beautiful creation!