Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Meet Cocoa

We have finally succumbed to the Elf on the Shelf phenomena.

Meet Cocoa...he is the elf we "adopted" after driving all over Bozeman trying to FIND an elf on the shelf.  

Over the last few years, I've sat and listened to stories of my friends who have to remember to have their elf do cute little mischevious deeds every night.  In my head, I smugly rejoiced in the fact that we had not been and would not be those people.  So what happened?

Well, the oldest daughter came home last week and HAD to have one because EVERYONE else in her class has one and we HAD to get one too.


If you know her, you know she can be quite relentless.  This was one of those instances where I figured it was easier to give in than to hear about it every single day for the next two weeks.

I do have to say that this little imp has some positive benefits.  If you don't know, it isn't enough anymore to sing, "You better watch out, you better not shout, you better not pout, I'm telling you why...Santa Claus is coming to town!"  No, now you have to say, "Cocoa is watching you and will tell Santa what you've been doing when he flies to the North Pole tonight."  When you think about it, why would any kid WANT an elf of the shelf watching their every move?  Regardless, I have already used this fact to my benefit when the kids are starting to act ornery. 

The other reason I've welcomed Cocoa in our house with open arms is his ability to get that same oldest daughter to spryly hop out of bed every morning before school.  Gone are the days of 30 minutes of escalating threats delivered in 5 minute intervals.  Now all I have to say is, "I wonder where Cocoa is this morning?" and watch with pleasure as she bounds down the stairs with nary an eye-roll or cover-flip.  What are we going to do when Christmas is over?  May I should invent a cupid on the shelf for Valentine's Day...

So yes, I am now one of those people who is trolling the blogoshpere for cute Cocoa adventure ideas.  I don't know how creative I'll get this year.  I don't want the bar set too high, you know.  Gotta work up to snow angels in powdered sugar and switching all the kids clothes with ours - seriously, I saw that one on a blog...WHO has time to do that???

Uh oh - my iPhone just popped up my "Elf!" reminder.  I'd better go figure out what Cocoa has in store tonight. :)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wolf & Grizzly Discover Center

The weekend before Halloween we made a last-second decision to drive to West Yellowstone for the day.  It was also the day after Mr. Yost's birthday.  We'd planned to go to Yellowstone Park for his birthday, but the weekend was COLD.  One of the other reasons we wanted to do a short road trip was so I could study.  It seems to get harder and harder to find time to read my CFP(R) material.  Fortunately, I am one of those rare people who can actually read in the car and not get sick. 

The morning started off like so many mornings when we try to get everyone out of the house.  At first it seems like everything will be just fine.  Then, about 30 minutes before our ETD everything hits the fan.  It never fails that the kids start getting needy and we still have 23 things to do before we leave.  This trip was no exception.  We managed to throw some snacks and warm clothes in the car and head-out around 9:00 am.  I'm pretty sure Vivi was screaming and the kids were asking over and over when they could turn on the iPad and then we realized that "we" forgot my study material.  It was touch-and-go all the way until about Gallatin Gateway.  At that point we figured it would be an even bigger disaster to go home, so we pushed on.  Around Big Sky the roads started getting bad and we ended up driving on snow pack for the next hour.  That wasn't exactly what we'd expected, but luckily Vivi had fallen asleep and the kids were engrossed in a show at that point.

As with all of these types of little mini-adventures, the day turned out great.  Since it was bone-chilling cold, there was virtually no-one else at the discovery center.  We got front row views of the bears, wolves and the raptors.  We watched and listened to the kids looking at all the exhibits and asking questions about everything they saw in the museum area.  After about an hour we asked one of the locals for a restaurant recommendation that wasn't MickeyD's.  We ended up at Wild West Pizza which looked like a hole-in-the-wall from the outside.  We were very pleasantly surprised at the food and the atmosphere including a sweet ski movie playing on the big screen - Happy Birthday Mr. Yost! 

After getting our fill on meatless/cheese-less pizza for us and some awesome looking mac and cheese for the kiddos, we went back to the discovery center for about another hour and a half. 

The day ended with a fairly peaceful drive home where we actually had one of those moments where we could enjoy the kids being the age they are now.  It was quite a stark contrast to how we felt as we headed out of the house in the morning.  I guess I had some time to sit and realize that in another 5 or 10 years the kids will all be sitting in the car with their headphones on and glaring at us from beneath their shaggy, in-their-eyes hair while we cheerily extoll the virtues of a family day trip to West Yellowstone.  Who knows, maybe I'll be wrong and we'll get the same kind of excited grins and cheers that we do now when we announce one of these mini-adventures.  If we don't, I'll just remember back to days like these and be glad that we didn't turn around before we even gave it a chance.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


We have lots of cute nicknames for Vivian:

Sweet Vivi
Vivi Lou Who
The Viv
The Bibs
Vivasnakes ? Isn't it weird what can end up being a term of endearment?

HOWEVER, we also have a couple things we call her that I know are not YaYa approved. I think it started because this summer was her learning to crawl and walk phase. It happened to correspond with us being outdoors a lot. Somehow, she always ended up with water and then dirt which of course became mud. Also, she LOVES to eat. Have you seen that girls thighs?


Anyway, she isn't necessarily a clean eater. She likes to dump her milk and learn about the unique properties of different foods through all of her senses ( read smushing, throwing, etc). Due to all of these factors we ended up calling her "Junkyard Baby" or "Junkyard" for short.

I know. I know.  It is a terrible thing to call our sweet little Bibinator.

So recently we decided to change it to "Havoc." It really is more fitting because her escapades aren't confined to mud and food. They extend to bathroom cabinets, the pantry and anything else she can find or reach.

Some pics of our Sweet Vivi Lou Havoc Who:

Oh yeah, this girl likes her food.

This is a close up of the spaghetti sauce that made it all the way to her hearing aid. She needs a bib for her head!

Quite proud of having found a way to grab the computer cord. - our kitchen.

Mmmmm...woodchips! - Avon, CO

Let me in the water Grandpa Pete! I'm one, that is plenty old enough to swim in a  mountain lake all by myself. - Silverthorne, CO

She's never met a sandbox that she hasn't wanted to take half of it home in her clothes. - Vail, CO

Pretty sure she is eating a rock here. - Jackson Lake, WY

 I found this little surprise trail of dog biscuits in the could only be one person...Havoc!

A little extra mud in your diet does a baby good. - Secret swimming hole somewhere near Yellowstone Nat'l Park.

I think I'll just hang out here on the fireplace hearth and enjoy my bag of raisins next to diapers I drug over.  

Look at this fun little place that is just my size and has fun little nuggets in it.  - Penny's crate in our living room

The Viv is also quite the little daredevil. Thank goodness for the vigilance of Pouli. - Pouli and YaYa's house.

Okay, she is not actually causing any havoc in this picture, but you can just tell she either came from havoc or is about to cause it. - Our hallway.

 Glitter Glue - Our dining room

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Missing: One Minimalist Mama

I can't believe it has been almost two months since I sat down to write my last post.

Where has the time gone?

In between the kids starting school, getting a new dog and Mr. Yost and I both continuing to work on our extra-curricular studies there has not been much energy leftover for blogging. It has also left little time for focusing on my minimalist mission.

It seems when the going gets busy, the busy go shopping.

I haven't exactly gone crazy, but I have noticed that when you have less time to be creative it is too easy to fill the void with accumulating more things.

More dog crates and dog beds and dog leashes and dog toys. Darn that PetSmart.
More shoes in my never-ending quest to try and find cute shoes that will fit my custom orthotics or at the very least not hurt my feet.
More books at the school bookfair and clothes from Goodwill because they were SUCH a good deal. The list goes on and on...

Alas, it hasn't been all bad. In fact, it hasn't been bad at all. Just a crazy, busy time in our life. I at least hope to get back into the rhythm of blogging so I can share some updates on our new dietary pursuits, that cute dog that has been getting spoiled by our trips to the box stores and whatever other ideas struggle their way to the surface of my cluttered mind.

Since most of my posting will probably be done on the iPad from here on out (why oh why did I give my laptop to Mr. Yost?), I will have to get iCloud working again so I have our newest pictures available.

In the meantime, here is a picture of my loves at a quick stop in Teton National Park this summer. What else could this Montana Mama ever want or need? :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Jenie Dog

I posted on Facebook two weeks ago that we had finally caved and adopted a dog for Stella from the local humane society.  After MANY trips to the shelter, we (I) finally decided on Jenie because she was the right size, she was 10-years old and she did great when they tested her with a cat.  The rest of the family was lobbying for a cute little Jack Russell Terrier that was quite cute, but a little too much energy for this mama.

We were told at the shelter that she didn't have any major medical issues that they knew of after being checked out by the techs and a rotating vet.   They also told us that we should expect that it would take her a few days to get into a normal eating schedule after being in the kennel. We did notice that she wasn't eating too well and seemed to like to sleep a lot.  We just figured that it was because she was getting used to her new surroundings.  Since she needed vaccine boosters, I made an appointment to have her first vet appointment.  I was so surprised to get the call from Aaron that the vet wouldn't do any of the routine work because after a physical examination they determined she had a large abdominal mass that was most likely a cancerous tumor.  They wanted us to do blood work and x-rays that would have cost $500 and then possibly face a surgery of another $1500. 


We'd only adopted her the week before.  We spent a few days trying to decide what to do.  Within those days, Jenie started going downhill fairly quickly and was having a hard time eating, walking and going to the bathroom.  I made an appointment at a different vet office for yesterday for a second opinion.  I had a meeting at work, so Mr. Yost ended up going with Stella while Grandma Candy had Hudson and Vivian in the waiting room.  I was devastated to read a text as soon as I was done with my meeting that Mr. Yost and the vet had to make the tough decision to put her to sleep at the appointment because the cancer was most likely all through her body and she was in rough shape.  My heart broke for the sweet little dog and for Stella to have wanted a dog for so long only to have it put down after 2 weeks of getting her. 

If I look for the silver lining to this dark cloud, it would be that we got to have Jenie Dog in our life and show us how wonderful it can be to have a dog as part of our family.  She also proved that Stella really can take care of a dog by walking her by herself and picking up the poop :) 

In her short time with us she got to go on many walks around the neighborhood, go to farmer's market, each lunch downtown at the co-op with a special dog-bone treat, play in Hyalite reservoir, meet a lot of my co-workers at the office, spend a day at Pouli and Yaya's and a nice summer evening out at Zach and Meggie's house.  She got special treats from one of my co-workers, canned dog food, lots of crumbs from Vivi at meal time, quite a bit of Maple's cat food and so many good pets and hugs from all of us.

We are already looking for another dog to adopt.  Hopefully we can find another one that will be such a great part of our family.  Thank you for being a part of our family, Jenie!

 Here she is getting out of the van for the first time when we got home.

 I thought it was so cute that Stella took her job of having Jenie on a leash very seriously.  Every where she went, Jenie had her leash on. 

 It didn't take her long to settle in.

This is the card Stella made for Jenie after they got home from the vet's office.  *sniff*

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Never too old for a s'more

I had to share this photo series of Grandpa Elmer (he is 96 by the way) enjoying an ooey-gooey s'more at Hyalite Resevoir earlier this summer -

 He isn't too sure if it is something he should eat..

 What the heck - just go for it!

 Oh yeah.  That is a good s'more.

Ooey gooey good!

 Twinkling blue eyes good!

Finger-lickin' good!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Car trip entertainment - surprise bags

Two weeks ago we packed up the swagger wagon for a long drive to Vail, Colorado.

I found this idea on Pinterest and decided that since we were facing 15 hours in the car, I'd better have some creative ideas to keep everyone happy.  I also figured that we would spend close to $100 for a hotel room if we did it in two days, so I could spend some money for car entertainment.  The most expensive thing I bought was the movie, "Up" on iTunes so they could watch it on the iPad.  It was money well spent.  Everything else was either something we had at home or from Michaels.

Both Stella and Hudson ended up sleeping from Douglas to Cheyenne, so we had two bags that we didn't even open and saved for the return trip. 

Overall, I would rate this project as time well-spent.  The kids loved the excitement of getting something new every hour or so, and it gave me the peace-of-mind knowing that I was providing them with interesting entertainment.  I admit that they would have been completely happy watching shows on the iPad the whole 15 hours, but that wasn't what I wanted for this trip (the way home was a whole different story). 

Here's what was in each bag -

1 Big Timber, MT: Silly Putty
2 Hardin, MT: magnetic balls toy
3 Sheridan, WY: Fuzzoodles
4 Buffalo, WY: slip with note about special movie on iPad - "Up"
5 Casper, WY: pipe cleaners with animals from the toy box at home
6 Douglas, WY:  a Leapfrog game and the kids' iPod touch which they thought was lost :)
7 Wheatland, WY: shiny scratch paper
8 Cheyenne, WY: colored duct tape and scissors
9 Fort Collins, CO: key chain making kit
10 Denver, CO: pipe cleaners with beads for making bracelets, necklaces
11 Idaho Springs, CO: shiny scratch paper fashion dolls
12 Silverthorne, CO: glow bracelets

Here is the map with all the "landmarks" where they got to open another bag.  Thank you, Mr. Yost, for the beautiful rendition of these western states.

 The first bag, which they got as we cruised through Big Timer, MT at about 7:30 am, contained....Silly Putty!  This was by far the most popular of all the surprise bags.  I was glad they got it early because they kept pulling it out the rest of the day.
 I also bought them these lap desks from Michaels.  I'm not usually one to buy large plastic items, but I knew I didn't want them playing with Silly Putty without a solid surface.  They worked fairly well.  I think Hudson kept feeling like they kept him even more locked in place that he already was, so he kept wanting it down as soon as he was done playing. 
 Vivi didn't have any surprise bags because things usually only keep her attention for mere seconds before she tosses them over the side of her car seat.  I didn't feel like wasting a bunch of money or cluttering up the car with things she wasn't going to play with anyway.  What DID keep her attention was ziploc bags of food.  She LOVED having a bag of cheerios or raisins and picking them out one at a time.  We only had one instance where she got excited and shook the bag vigorously in the air and tossed cheerios from the front seat all the way to the back.

 Here is the map again taped onto the window in front of Stella's seat.  Since she can read, she was in charge of looking at the road signs and then crossing off the landmarks.
One of my car treats - breakfast cookies.  They are made with oatmeal, bananas, applesauce and whatever else you want to through in like craisins, raisins, nuts, etc.  Yum!

 Gotta love a sleeping baby!  She took two very good naps which certainly helped tame the craiziness factor.  

Towards the later part of the trip, I must have lost my enthusiasm for taking pictures.  However, here is a picture of a duct tape wallet that Stella made for Grandpa Pete the next morning.  She also made three little purse-type bags while we were in the car.  I think Hudson made a very impressive duct tape ball :)