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July 2014

The Open Door

We are going to Montana (actually we are now in Montana; yesterday we were either driving to Montana or visiting North Dakota, depending upon your perspective) to spend the week with my brother and his family in a rental house that I found on the internet in a part of the state none of us have ever visited. It is either going to be terrific or a disaster.

As far as roadtrips go, this one has been pretty tepid. I keep comparing it to the trips we took a few years ago when I was obviously suffering from some kind of psychotic break and convinced Steve to pack up our barely house-trained children and drive them across Canada a couple of times. For fun.

Ha! Remember that night when we accidentally started an electrical fire and then a two year old Caroline pried open our room door and disappeared until the desk clerk returned her and then Steve knocked over a coffee pot which shattered into a thousand billion pieces which had to be vaccumed up by the (same) desk clerk while we all stood on the beds?

Yesterday we packed a modest quantity of clothing and a couple of kindles into the car (no double stroller, no delightful but bulky peapod portable tent-beds, no backpacks filled with sippy cups and wipes and duct tape and safety pins - aw. remember when we had to duct tape Caroline into her diaper and then safety pin the zipper of her peapod shut to keep her from escaping to Nunavut?) We proceeded to listen to the second book in the Septimus Heap series from the eastern edge of Minnesota to Bismark, North Dakota (with all due respect: ugliest. state. capitol. building. ever.)

It was all so civilized. We drove, we listened and when we got to Bismark we had truly excellent pizza at, lemme think, Fireflour? Flourfire? something like that before returning to our hotel to swim in one of those odd tiny mid-level pools you find in downtown hotels. This one happened to be located on the same floor as the ballroom and although I am learning to love my aging body (mantra, breathe, mantra) I have to admit that walking in my bathing suit through the cocktails-before-dinner portion of a wedding reception - honest to god, the elevator doors opened and we found ourselves in the middle of a wedding; the pool was located on the opposite side of the hall. It was worse upon our return. Everyone was still clustered in front of the elevators, the bridesmaids were still in taffeta and now we were dripping pool water... anyway, it was a challenge to my composure.

Damn it. I meant to finish this last night but we went to a brew pub for dinner. Steve ordered a generous eight beer flight and I hate to see alcohol go to waste so I selflessly drank all the weird ones for him. Two words: strawberry hefeweisen. 

Patrick was convinced that the stout smelled like soy sauce and therefore must be equally umami. Deciding to nip this misconception in the bud before the teen years commence and I find myself with regurgitated Guiness all over the car seats, I offered him a sip. He recoiled as if from a snake and looked around for protective services. Steve frowned at me like Cotton Mather and I said, it's fine, he'll hate it, trust me. Steve said that perhaps Patrick might stick a finger into the glass and taste it that way if I really thought this wasn't the worst idea he had ever heard and rightfully illegal.

Patrick put a tentative pinkie into the stout. He put his finger into his mouth. Then his face collapsed and he shuddered from his toes to the tips of his hair.

"What did it taste like?" Steve asked.

"Despair," Patrick said.

After Bismark we drove to Teddy Roosevelt National Grasslands which was lovely although I thought the most interesting part was the brief history of Roosevelt in which I learned that his first wife died at 22 of kidney failure after giving birth in the same house and on the same day that his mother died of typhoid. On VALENTINE'S DAY! Lord! Isn't that sad? They had a picture of his diary entry in which he had crossed an X and written, "The light has gone out of my life."

Then he handed the two day old baby to his sister and went to the Badlands for a couple of years to shoot buffalo. As ye do.

The rest of the family is not as romantical as I am but they are apparently as morbid so while I was sighing over the tragedy of 1884 they were in the nature center, happily examining the representative skulls of all of the wildlife that might be spotted (preferably with skin intact) in the grasslands.

Like buffalo

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and wild horses

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and my personal favorite...

prairie dogs.

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How cute is that, seriously?

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And there is - hand wave - scenery

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You get the idea. Very... big. Very open. Pretty.

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After 800 miles in the car together I have learned that Patrick calls Caroline Princess Wolverine and, although I generally disapprove of the princessification of society in general and young girls in specific, I find this funny.

And speaking of Caroline and trips, I left her in my bathtub while I packed and I guess I left her to her own devices for a little too long because when I came back to get her out I learned that Edward had joined her and she had discovered bodywash and the fact that my tub has jets.

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I walked in and said, "Oh my god!" Then I repeated this a few several many times at an increasingly high pitch until Steve came in behind me and took a picture. Because it lasts longer. Like those bubbles.