Saturday, July 31, 2010

Yellowstone Light

I usually try not to give parents advice on how to raise their kids, because I figure my track record is not quite perfect yet (close, but not quite). However, I do have one suggestion I think is excellent:

If at all possible, have your child win a trip to Yellowstone that allows you to tag along.

I don't mean as a chaperon. Ohhh no, that involves way too much work. I mean "tag along" as in enjoy all the benefits and none of the responsibilities. It's nice work if you can get it. And, thanks to the nice corporate sponsors-- but most of all to the Little Princess, her three fellow Princesses and their Queenly moms -- I got it.

We had a wonderful time, riding on the coattails of our Siemen's "We Can Change The World" Challenge second-place winning daughters. I'm afraid this might be the Little Princess' "Get Out of Juvie Free" card for a little while. The subtle, yet effective rebuff will go something like this:

Me: "Little Princess! I told you to clean up your room! I mean now, missy!"
LP: "Hmm, do you remember the Grilled Organic Chicken Breast with Artichokes, Olives and Pine Nuts we had at Yellowstone? Or what about those Honey Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes?"
Me: "Uh...yeah..well. Um, whenever you get around to it, darling."

Of course, it wasn't all catered meals, expertly guided tours and Phillipe Cousteau (such a cutie!). There was airline travel involved, after all. Our initial flight out of Cedar Rapids International was canceled, meaning we would miss the first of only two daily flights our airline had from Minneapolis to Bozeman, Montana. We had a choice of waiting nine hours in CR, or in Minneapolis. It was a tough choice -- the cities being so much alike and all -- but we decided to head north ASAP.

If you have to be stuck in an airport with four pre-teen girls for nine hours, the four Little Princesses are a good group to be stuck with. We probably could have spent all our time just wandering around Minneapolis-St. Paul International, but we opted to hop the light rail for a quick trip to the Mall of America. The trip organizers told us to be prepared to do a lot of hiking. We just didn't realize it would all take place before we even got to Yellowstone.

My last flight was pre-9-11, but I had been coaching myself for several weeks to suppress my natural tendency to make flippant (some would say "smart-ass") remarks. Apparently air-line security scanners are now so sensitive that they can actually pick up errant thoughts. How else to explain the fact that I was pulled aside for a pat-down? Twice. Once on the initial flight out of Cedar Rapids (while I was biting my tongue so hard it nearly bled) and on the return flight out of Bozeman.

OK, so I might have whispered some subversive comments to the Little Princess the second time. It's not my fault the TSA needs to read their postings for content. I mean, they tell you the name on your ID and boarding pass must match, but they never say it has to be your name. And requesting we "treat security personnel with the respect they deserve" is just asking for trouble. Granted, if I worked in that little closet they call a security checkpoint in Bozeman, my behavior probably wouldn't deserve much respect either.

It's a tough job, and better them than me, but come on now, getting pulled aside for a pat-down twice? If they tried it a third time I was going to demand they buy me dinner and flowers first.

I was just surprised I didn't get hauled into any of the many security checkpoints we walked by on our return through MSP International. Sometime after the second pat-down and re-packaging the 3-oz. liquids I foolishly didn't cram into my checked bag, I developed a massive traveler's zit. I was fairly certain I would have to pay for a second seat just for my blemish. I swear the security guys looked at it like they were considering waving their magic wands over it. Who knows what I could have concealed in there! If we had to make an emergency landing, they could have deployed my zit to cushion the crash.

The Yellowstone portion of the trip more than made up for the travel troubles. In addition to learning about the wildlife, ecosystem and geology of the world's first National Park, we learned a few other more practical tips for Yellowstone visitors:
  • Don't hike across a cactus-strewn field wearing flip-flops.
  • Don't walk through sagebrush wearing shorts.
  • Do always watch were you walk. There's a lot of poop in "them thar hills."

But most of all, I learned to be quiet and listen. To look and marvel at the splendor of nature. And to laugh and enjoy life with the ebullience of a pre-teen Princess.

Thank you, Little Princess. All four of you. For an experience I'll never forget.

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