"You can make anything by writing."

-- C. S. Lewis

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

They Call Her Ryles

I know my entire blog must seem like an ode to my daughter sometimes. And maybe it is. ;-) But tomorrow she turns “a dozen” (her words, not mine!). And in honor of her twelfth birthday, I want to offer up 12 little-known quirks that make up our Ryley Elisabeth.

1. She is a sucker for “As Seen on TV” items, the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog, and any other odd invention she comes across. Years ago, she told us, “I am always on the lookout for things that will improve our home!” When I’m waiting in line at our grocery store pharmacy, Ryley will often round the corner, her arms filled with gadgets she picked off the “As Seen on TV” rack. Then she shows me each item in grand detail before I tell her to go put them all back where she found them.

2. You will never meet someone more enthusiastic about the last movie she saw. “That’s my new favorite movie!” she announced after “Frozen.” “That’s my new favorite movie!” she announced after “The Lego Movie.” Then “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Then “Inside Out.” Then “Jurassic World.” She’s constantly revising her list of favorites, based on whatever she saw most recently.

3. She loves pickled foods…pickles, artichokes, sauerkraut. Basically, anything that’s been soaked in vinegar for long periods of time! When we go to Five Guys, we even soak our fries in malt vinegar.

4. She has a compassionate heart for all animals, but especially dogs. She will befriend pretty much any puppy she sees. She can’t wait until she’s old enough to volunteer at the animal shelter or the zoo.

5. Antique stores and thrift stores are treasure troves for our girl. She could spend hours in one. She once fell in love with a piggy bank with the words “Dad’s Boat Fund” painted on it. Of course she had to get it for the sheer irony! She has also started a “small bottle collection,” for which she saves my old perfume bottles, vanilla extract bottles, etc.

6. On that note, our recent hotel stays unearthed a new issue…a love for freebies. “Mom, are these shampoo bottles for us to keep? How about the pen and notepad?” We stayed in three hotels, and at each place, Ryley collected all the free things that she could.

7.  She runs everywhere. It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve gotten on her case. She runs through the grocery store, her arms and legs flailing. There’s no patience for the journey…She must be at her destination now!

8. She has a soft spot for blankets and cuddly things. It could be 85 degrees in our house, but Ryley will still want a blanket while she watches TV. We recently had to help her find other places for her stuffed animals because she wasn’t sleeping well in her bed. She was hanging on to the edge for dear life while her plethora of stuffed puppies took up all the prime mattress real estate.

9. Soup is one of her favorite foods. Once again, it doesn’t matter how hot it is outside…She’ll take a bowl of minestrone or broccoli cheddar any day!

10. Whether it be a comic book about the Fantastic Four or an episode of Doctor Who, Ryley comes by her nerdiness honestly. To her daddy’s great pride, she loves all things super-hero and sci-fi!

11. She enjoys musicals (“Sound of Music,” “Fiddler,” “West Side Story,” “Into the Woods,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” etc.), and she belts out the tunes in a strong, beautiful voice! She’s always trying to sing the harmony part, too, and finds pure joy in hearing different parts.

12. As she gets older, we look forward to introducing her to more and more good comedy. She has a gorgeous laugh, and we love hearing it when something genuinely tickles her. She has a tremendous sense of humor and keeps us laughing too!



Her group of friends started calling her “Ryles” this past school year – a nickname I think is so cute I wish I would have thought of it myself!!

Happy birthday, Ryley! Daddy and I love you more than you will ever understand. You are a ray of sunshine in a very dark world, and we are thankful to God for entrusting us with your very precious life.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Yellowstone, Days 2 and 3 (MORE bears!)

We got a later start than we intended Saturday morning. After we tracked down a coffee shop and a gas station, we waited in the long line of cars at the west entrance of the park. I was driving, so Ryley and Ryan popped out for this quick picture:


When Ryan and I first visited Yellowstone in 2002, the park had recently recovered from a wildfire a couple of years before. At that time, much of the west entrance was bare, with a sea of dead trees as far as the eye could see. There was a strange sense of beauty in that, however. I had never seen anything like it, and the hills and hills of tree skeletons with the beginnings of new life poking up from beneath is fixed in my memory.

What we discovered this time around is that the landscape of a forest can change a lot in 13 years. Ryan read somewhere that forest fires open the pinecones, releasing them to re-seed the ground.  The flora has indeed made a gigantic comeback, and the new generation of small- and medium-sized pine trees is thick along the sides of the roads and deep into the woods.  Because of the new growth, we couldn’t see as far from the road as we could last time. But it was okay because it was so incredible to be witnessing the circle of life firsthand, the constant ebb and flow of nature. From death comes new life.



I am a sucker for waterfalls. They might just be my favorite thing in the world.


It was a little too cold to swim at Firehole Falls, though some people were. Ryley was content to get her feet wet.




It was actually quite chilly out, so I feel like the steam from the thermal pools was a little thicker than usual. We couldn’t see the colors as clearly. It was still so beautiful, though.




We arrived at Old Faithful at lunch time. We ate lunch, did a little shopping, and watched the eruption around 2:45.



Ryley took a selfie with Old Faithful. :-)

We got back on the road, knowing we were running out of time to finish the southern loop in daylight. It was so peaceful and relaxing to drive through the forest and alongside the lake, accompanied by worship music, Sufjan Stevens, and Radical Face.



We came upon some elk grazing in a field…They’re so majestic!



And now for the best part of our trip!!!!!!!!

We entered the Hayden Valley and were immediately smitten with the gorgeous views.


The combination of the sunlight and green fields under plump clouds was simply breathtaking.


Add the mountains in the distance and the Yellowstone River, and it’s heavenly.


The animals thought so, too, and we found ourselves pulling over along the side of the road with a bunch of other people to take pictures of…birds.


“There has to be something else,” Ryan said, scouring the valley for signs of life. “These people have to be looking at more than just birds.”

And then, there was movement.


One beautiful black bear came into view.


Then, there was more movement. And two babies came into view!!!



They were so playful, romping around the meadow as a threesome. It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever witnessed.


About a half mile down the road, we spotted another bear…this one seemed bigger and browner, but it was also harder to see.



We continued down the road and found yet another group of people camped out. We parked and after failing to see anything, asked them what they were looking at.


A wolf working on a kill down by the water!

And a few yards away, a bald eagle…


Ryley was absolutely thrilled!!! The Hayden Valley had held so much wildlife…more than we could have imagined!

And we can’t forget this lonely bison. :-)


At last, we moved on.


Daylight was waning. We had forgotten how nice it is that the sun stays up later in the north. It was nearing 8:00 by this point, and we still had to cross the park to get back to our hotel.



Just before we left the park, we came across these lovely elk…


Mommy and baby. Be still my heart!


By the time we made it back to West Yellowstone, it was 9:30. We found a place to eat and pretty much crashed as soon as we got to the hotel!

Sunday morning, we knew we had a long way to go, so we packed the van and got out much earlier. We stopped by the same coffee shop, and when I told the owner we had seen five bears over our two-day visit, he confirmed that it is extremely rare to see that kind of activity in July! Ryley’s souvenir is a stuffed black bear, and she is determined to make it a little t-shirt that says “Yellowstone 2015: The Year of 5 Bears.” :-)

We drove south through the park without stopping until we got to the dramatically gorgeous Grand Tetons.





FullSizeRender (2)FullSizeRenderIMG_3365


A guy from China offered to take this picture of our family below.


And off we went, meandering through Jackson Hole and down through the picturesque wilderness of Wyoming to our lovely Colorado.


The getaway may have been short and quick, but it was extremely satisfying to reconnect with God’s vast creation and enjoy His handiwork. I am still reeling with overwhelming gratitude.

Ryan’s headaches were constant throughout the trip, some days worse than others. He didn’t take any powerful painkillers because he didn’t want to take the chance of being too sedated to enjoy anything. His body is pretty susceptible to drugs. Instead, he powered through. Like a boss!

This afternoon, Ryley was reunited with Juliet, and I don’t think there has ever been such a sweet reunion in the history of girls and their dogs!


Juliet has not stopped licking Ryley’s freckles all night long. ;-)

So that was our trip (aka “Yellowstone 2015: The Year of 5 Bears”). Hopefully I will have more writing ready to post soon. In the meantime, Happy Summer!