So, our timeline had us staying in Yellowstone when we departed from Colorado. Seeing as it was a high of 20 degrees, we decided it was a tad too cold for us to camp out there this time of year. Luckily, Hannah and Derek has informed us that Moab, Utah was only a six hour drive away and some of Derek's coworkers from Amsterdam who had recently traveled the USA exclaimed it was the most impressive place they'd seen their entire visit.
We stayed at Arches National Park, in Moab, and it was spectacular. I'm actually not sure if spectacular really covers how marvelous our stay at Moab was, but it'll do for now. After one pretty darn cold night of camping outside, we packed up some backpacks full of granola bars, Gatorade and waters, laced up our hiking boots and hit the "Devil's Garden Trail," which with all the detours and side paths totaled 7.2 miles of "primitive hiking."
|Top secret cave drawings. Plus Dan and myself.|
If you have not experienced a primitive hiking trail, you're doing it wrong. Some of the hiking trails included jogging up slick rocks, walking up rock mountains with sheer drops on either side, and jaw dropping views of gorgeous arches and distant mountains. We finished out the day by camping another night, this time sleeping in the car for a bit more warmth...but a bit less leg room.
The next day we packed up our gear, stopped into Moab for a quick bite to eat, and headed to Salt Lake City for the night to break up the drive. We made ourselves some stir fry, took some really long showers to get the smell of smoke out of our skin, and passed out early to prepare for the drive to Mountain Home, Idaho the following day.
Some of you may be asking "...but why Mountain Home?" To that we say: excellent question, blog readers! Meaghan's longtime friend, Jillian, and her husband Colin live on the Air Force Base in Mountain Home where Colin is a Senior Airman working on F100 jet engines for the F15. Jillian was an education major, so she substitute teaches at the local schools (spoiler alert: Jillian gave us an idea for one of our RAKs in the post).
Jillian made us an amazing home cooked meal, we got some slobbery love from their dog Kiffin while chatting with Colin and Jillian then headed to bed so we could wake up bright and early to get a jump start on our RAKs for the next day!
When we visited Hannah in Boulder, she gave us a plethora of ideas to use as RAKs (which was awesome -- we love hearing your ideas, it's not always easy thinking creatively). One of those was to pass out some Starbucks gift cards to students who were studying in a college library. We picked up a few gift cards to do this in different places, because I know that when I was in college, this would have made my entire year when I was stressed out and slaving away in the library.
|Jillian and Dan modeling the the GC and RAK card in front of the library|
So, Jillian, Dan and I headed over to Boise State University's library to find some students hard at work. Our criteria was as follows: they had to have their phone away, had to look like they were working hard on something that we could not begin to wrap our brains around, and had to be intensely studying. We creeped our way around the library to find these individuals and came across the following:
Jillian: A girl who was computing some hard core and intense math and was working really hard. Jillian let her know that she was doing a great job studying.
Dan: A curly haired man with glasses who looked like he had not showered in a few days and looked like he had been holed up in his library cubby for weeks. Dan made sure that the student drank coffee beforehand, since he had found another deserving soul first and when he asked if he drank coffee the boy gave him a weird look and said "Um. No."
Meaghan: A girl who was frantically studying some sort of math equations, or some sort of charts (honestly it was so intense that I really had no idea what she was doing but I was seriously impressed). She was taking up the entire cubicle with her measurements -- I told her she was studying super hard and handed her a gift card.
After our adventures in the Boise State University Library, we stopped by Target to pick up some items for our next RAK.
As I mentioned, Jillian substitute teaches at the schools of the Mountain Home school district. She was actually a long term substitute for five weeks in one of the second grade classes. She was offered the position full time, but since Colin got orders to PCS (permanent change of station) to Japan next year, she didn't want to have the students switched teachers again (they had already switched twice that school year -- one of the times only having a teacher for a week before she quit). Jillian met all sort of students while teaching the second grade class, many of the children's parents are migrant workers and the students are a bit behind since they switch schools so often. One of her favorite students she had the opportunity to teach is an adorable little girl named Marisol, who is part of the wonderful family for whom we were able to provide a pick-me-up.
Marisol and her two sisters Enedina, a third grader, and Sativa, who is in kindergarten live with their grandparents. Sadly, their grandfather is incapacitated because of an illness, so their grandmother, Jessie is essentially raising them as a single parent. The children are living with Jessie and her husband because their parents are currently incarcerated, so the grandparents stepped up to take custody. Jillian let us know that Jessie is basically the only guardian of any of her students to volunteer and help out in the class room and is adamant about helping the girls with their homework and reading. She even goes the extra mile to ask Jillian for additional assignments to help her granddaughters master the skills they are taught at school. In addition to making sure the girls receive the best education possible, Jessie also raised the girls to be appreciative and be the kind of people who are thankful for others and help out however they can, even though Jessie and her husband are raising the girls solely on their own social security.
In addition to raising the girls, Jessie also raises rabbits with them to teach them responsibility. She has a community group that she takes on trips to teach others about rabbits where the kids are responsible for teaching the other children about agriculture, raising rabbits, and types of rabbit breeds as a means of progressive education and public speaking practice.
Jillian mentioned that Marisol is a wonderful example of how great Jessie is raising these girls since she always noticed her helping other students in the class room with their homework or helping to solve other problems. When there was a new student in the class, Marisol took on the responsibility of showing her around the classroom and made sure to introduce her to the other students in class.
|Putting together some bags of goodies.|
We decided that this was exactly the type of family that deserved some RAKing. Jillian reached out to Jessie to get the girl's sizes and reading levels, we picked up some outfits, accessories, reading and coloring books and coloring utensils for the three girls, and headed over to their school. Grandma Jessie and the three girls met us in one of Jillian's good friends, Katie's (an amazing teacher) classroom right after school. Dan and I explained what we were doing and told them that we had heard they were some pretty awesome girls and that we were here to give them gifts for being such great people. We then presented them with their gifts while Katie passed out Kleenex to the spectators and we all got to stand back and watch the three girls throw their tissue paper in the air and rummage through their gift bags. I can honestly say that I have not seen kids as appreciative and excited as these girls were to receive these clothes and gifts. Enedina, the oldest, squealed with glee and exclaimed that she couldn't believe that she was getting new jeans, while the two younger girls (who are some little fashionistas) gasped at the site of their new hair accessories, which Jillian immediately used to hold back her bangs.
|Jillian putting some hair clips in Sativa's hair|
In addition to the gifts for the girls, we picked up a $50 Walmart giftcard for Jessie to use how she pleases. Jessie was so thankful for the gifts for the girls and when we told her that we're thankful for her raising these girls herself, she told us that she is glad to have the opportunity to be a parent again, since she feels that she was too much of a "friend" to her children the first time around and not enough of a parent. She told us that she feels that she raised her own children the wrong way (the girl's parents), so she is making up for it by raising these girls right. After meeting these girls, we think she is doing a wonderful job. For instance, we told them that they have to be nice to their Grandma for the rest of the year and Enedina replied: "I think we should be nice to her forever" while the other two nodded their heads in agreement.
|Dan, the girls and myself.|
Jessie let us know that she and the girls discussed ways to pay it forward and they decided on baking cookies to take to the local nursing home. They are going to check if it is alright to take their rabbits along as well so that the residents of the nursing home can pet them, because as Sativa said, her rabbits are "really really soft."
|Jillian, Grandma Jessie and the girls|
Once we got back to Jillian and Colin's lovely home Jillian got to work mixing up some cookie dough for and ordering pizza for our final RAK of the day.
|Look at the perfection of those cookies.|
Senior Airman Colin Kempsell spends his evenings with a crew of around 20 working on some impressive pieces of machinery.
We figured these guys, who work through their nights helping to keep the Air Force's F15s up and running, deserved a little dinner-time surprise. Colin gave us a run-through of the shop while his co-workers were distracted by the pizza and amazing cookies his wife had whipped up.
|The mechanics that weren't on a diet.|
We're sad to say goodbye to the last of the Harold girls (who all married wonderful guys), but in the morning we finally depart for Yellowstone to check out all of the natural wonders it has to offer.
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