Monday, December 9, 2013


Patience must be something I have to learn.  I've never been a very patient person, but I've found that the things I've had to wait for are the things that are most important to me.  Kelly and I were very lucky to meet pretty early (no patience needed there), but unlike many of my friends and peers from Utah who meet and marry within a year, Kelly and I had to wait over four years before we had the opportunity to get married, and a lot of that time was spent apart, either because we attended different universities located 300 miles apart, or because of his mission to Uruguay.  We both knew for pretty much the entire four years we were going to get married, and sometimes having patience was very difficult.  The good thing about this is I think Kelly and I really, truly value our marriage.  Neither of us wonder if we did the right thing, or chose too soon, or rushed into things.  We're honestly just very very grateful to finally be together.  We do errands and chores together, help each other out with everything, and basically really hate being apart.  I'm not saying our marriage is perfect.  Of course we disagree sometimes, and I snap at him over stupid things, and I tease him way, way, way too much, but we love each other.  We are always there for each other, and the fact that we are sealed together for eternity is one of the things we are most grateful for.

Another thing that we've had to wait for is being with our family.  Kelly and I both love our families very much, but two days after we got married we moved across the country for work.  This has been a blessing in our lives because we get so much time together and rely completely on one another, but it has also been difficult being so far from home and our families.  We have now lived here for nearly five years, and while we have come to love Baltimore (well, most things about it), we miss our families a lot and hope to be able to move back to Utah soon.  Or maybe get everyone to move out here.  Somehow I don't think that's going to happen.  Because we've been apart, though, we really appreciate our families and their love and support, and because we miss so many big events like the births of our three nephews, most holidays, baby blessings, and birthdays, we are grateful for the ones we do get to be around for like Christmas and weddings, and we work hard to be able to visit home to be with family when we can. I feel like because we've been apart and had to wait to be together we have realized how very important our families are to us.

As many of you know, the third thing we have had to have a lot of patience about is starting our own family.  After being married for about two years, I started wanting to have a baby.  There were many many reasons which I really don't want to go into here, but we decided to wait.  It was annoying and sad at times, but we knew it was for the best.  When we finally felt the time was right it was very exciting and fun wondering if I was pregnant and imagining how our lives would change.  We were both ready to expand our family and bring more love and meaning to our lives.  We were quite lucky and it didn't take too long to get pregnant, but if you read my last post you'll know that I miscarried.  It was so heartbreaking to have all those hopes and dreams handed to us and then snatched away so quickly.  As soon as we got the okay from the doctor we began trying again, but month after month I'd get my hopes up only to be disappointed.  All the while I was counting down how far along I would have been with the baby I had lost, seeing pregnancy announcements from friends on Facebook, and watching women at church who I had been pregnant with start having their babies, and aching for one of my own.  Patience would be a good thing to have, but unfortunately I haven't learned it well enough and need to have it forced on me.  After I passed my baby's due date, I felt like maybe I could finally begin to heal and things began getting a little better.  I know that because of the miscarriage and the subsequent difficulties with conceiving I have become a softer person, and definitely more aware of the heartache of others.  I have a dear friend who had two miscarriages that I know of, and still no news of a baby, and I hurt for her everyday.  As the months passed I realize more and more that just like waiting both to marry Kelly and live closer to family has made me more grateful for them, the most important things in my life, when I finally have a baby I will be so much more grateful for that child than I would have been without the wait.

One year to the day from miscarrying our baby, we found out we are expecting again.  It's been very scary, but we are also so grateful for the blessing.  Fortunately, none of the complications of the last pregnancy have been present, and now that I have passed the first trimester and things are looking very positive so far, we are overjoyed to announce that we should finally be having a baby of our very own in June 2014.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

I meant to post this yesterday, but of course I was slow.

Yesterday was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  I never thought I would be on this end of things, wanting people to know that pregnancy loss happens more than you might think.  I also want to send love and support to any mothers and families out there who have lost a baby, or babies.  I know that October 15th and Awareness month is about infant loss in all ways, not just miscarriage, but since I've only experienced miscarriage, it's what I will be addressing.  I miscarried a year ago this week.  I went to the ER and found that my baby's heart was no longer beating on October 15, 2012.  The reason I wanted to write this is because a lot of women have lost a baby to miscarriage, and for some reason it often turns into a taboo subject.  I was surprised by how many women came out of the woodwork and told me about their own miscarriage, or in some cases multiple miscarriages, after finding out I lost my baby, and I never even knew.  Even if women do talk about their pregnancy loss it is often not recognized as the death of a child.  My hopes and future and plans were pinned to that baby.  It was ripped away from me when I lost my pregnancy, and I never even got to hold my baby, or find out the gender or give him or her a name.  A lot of people didn't know what to say to me or how to act.  Many said insensitive and even hurtful things on accident or in ignorance.  Things like, "what did you do?"  "When are you going to have kids?  You guys have been married for awhile, now!"  Or on Mother's Day, when an innocent 10-year-old asked for my Mother's Day chocolate bar that my church gives all women 18 years and older, because "it's not like you're a mom."  Without the extra sensitivity to others' unintentional comments, I still felt a lot of ridiculous feelings that I knew were ridiculous, but I still felt them.  I felt extreme guilt.  What had I accidentally done to kill my child?  I took a hot bath before I knew I was pregnant!  You're not supposed to get too hot!  Maybe I damaged some chromosomes or something?  It was ridiculous, because I followed all the pregnancy rules; it was just one of those things.  I felt like I let my family down.  Women have babies all the time.  It's one of those big things we're made to do, and I couldn't do it.  I told my parents I was pregnant and it was going to be their first grandchild and I couldn't follow through.  I knew even as I was feeling these things that I was being stupid.  My whole family was loving and supportive and sad for my loss, not judging me on failing to carry my baby to term, but I still felt that way.  Not to mention the extreme jealousy and even dislike of women who were still pregnant or who had babies.  I tried not to, but it hurt so much.   I remember seeing little twin boys sitting in a grocery cart and bursting into tears, while my sweet husband tried to guide me away.

The reason I share all this is not for pity, but because it needs to be recognized that women who miscarry have lost their child.  The moment she finds out she's pregnant her life is different.  When all those plans and dreams crash around her, it is one of the most awful moments of her life.  And if women want to talk about it, they should be able to without people cringing on the inside.   The best thing you can do if you know someone who'd lost a baby is just recognize it as true loss.  Ask them how they're doing and if you can do anything to help them out.  A few people sent Kelly and me cards, and one sweet woman brought me flowers.  Another asked me if I wanted to go get lunch; I didn't feel up to it, but just her reaching out to me meant so much.  My family was loving and supportive, and Kelly babied me for months because I felt so terrible physically for weeks, and emotionally until well after the due date.  Please don't brush it under the rug, because a mother (or father) who has lost a baby will never, ever forget.

For women or anyone else dealing with loss from a miscarriage, I found a couple sites helpful when I was in the thick of it:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Labor Day Weekend: I made a baby mobile!

School started.  It is fine.  I like my students.  I think I'm a bad teacher.  Labor Day weekend was very much needed after the longest first week of school ever.  Anyway, I've made no secret about wanting to have a baby, and my brother and his wife's baby was due September 1, and Labor Day has a birth-kind-of-word in it, and it was that time of the month that I was hoping I might be pregnant so over Labor Day weekend I made a mobile.
Ta da!
FYI, I'm not pregnant, and my nephew was born a few days later than his due date, and he is oh-so-cute from the pictures I've seen.  Being an aunt from 2500 miles away is not much fun, though.  Neither is finding out my nephew's name from FACEBOOK!  *cough* Kevin you kinda suck a little *cough* (Kevin is my brother who failed to tell me the name of my own nephew.  Of course my sister-in-law cannot be blamed for this oversight since she had just given birth and had better things to do...unless she specifically took time from cuddling her baby to force Kevin not to tell me so they could maniacally laugh together, in which case that was mean...but that's very unlikely.  She's not evil, you know.)

Anyway, some of my few readers may recall a certain bedroom I furnished in orange, white and grey.

I knew I wanted a mobile above the crib, you know, when we get one.  And my sister even gave me an old picture-hanging thing from her old room that could work as the hanging apparatus of said mobile, but I didn't know what to put on it.  Definitely not one of those chinzy pastel things you see with cartoony bugs and veggietales and nonsense like that.

This one is particularly classy-looking.  (In case you love it, it's from Target, also, sorry for calling it classy in a sarcastic caption.)
If I'm going to have a mobile, I wanted something either abstract like this (except putting glass over a baby's bed is not such a good idea.  I'm not stupid.)
Image from here.  Before you click you should know it's a lingerie store's website, but it does have a post on how to make this.  And don't judge me, I found it on Pinterest.

or something that actually belongs flying in the air, like planes, birds, or butterflies.  Also, I didn't want to stray from our orange/white/black/grey thing.  As you can see, my options were quite limited, especially because this room is gender-neutral, since, you know, we don't actually have a baby (or even one in the making) yet.  Planes scream BOY; butterflies scream GIRL; birds scream SCARY! (In case you don't know me, birds were never an option because I'm scared of them.)  Pandas fit the color scheme, but why would pandas be flying?  Also, why would I pick pandas?  Polar bears, zebras, cows and tigers were more of the same story: all fit the color scheme, but none of them fly, and I am not particularly in love with any of them, so I was still stuck.  But who cares?  I don't need a mobile.  I don't have a baby.  The end.

Then I saw this on Pinterest:
Pinterest linked me to this Etsy page
Sheep!  Sheep are black and white, so color scheme: check!

Sheep don't fly, BUT are commonly portrayed as jumping over beds being counted by sleepless people, so the flying thing: narrowly-on-a-technicality, check!
I'm not really obsessed with sheep either, but these ones are cute, so... okay!

However, there is no way I'm spending $80 on five tiny cutie sheep tied to a needlepoint frame.  Okay, a bare wicker wreath, whatever.  But I decided I could make something similar myself.  Even though I don't sew, I have a can-do attitude when it comes to saving mah moolah.  I'm crafty, right? I'm creative, right?  I have a slight artistic flair, right?  I'm stubborn and do what I want, right?  Given all my self-professed credentials, I thought I'd give 'er the old college try.

So I skipped along to Joann's and bought a yard of fuzzy baby blanket white stuff, and half a yard of black rib-knit cotton (overkill by the way, but I never professed to have done the math beforehand.  Because I didn't.)  It only cost me about $6.

I even took a picture of all the materials you need.  I'm so good I should start a blog!...wait...

Materials needed for sheep: White fuzzy fabric appropriate for fluffy lambs, black fabric, black thread, white thread, eye-colored embroidery floss (I made each of my sheep have different colored eyes which is why I have a bunch of colors), sewing needle, scissors, pins, batting, and some paper for a pattern.  And if you want to make a mobile, you'll have to figure that part out yourself.

I started by making a pattern:
Pattern for sheep face, sheep leg, and sheep body
I also needed ears and a tail, but I freestyled those with each sheep, because what can I say? I'm a rebel like that.

I actually cut out the face and legs with the fabric folded in half, therefore the pattern stayed folded in half, but it reminded me where to line up the folded fabric.

The little nubbin is the tail, the long thing at the bottom are the ears, at least the way I did them for most of the sheep.

After I had everything cut out I pinned the legs and the face with the ears where I wanted them, like so:

See how the ears are pinned inside the face?
In case you're bad at sewing like I am, remember to pin it inside-out. Then I just stitched around the outside of the legs and the face, careful to keep my ears where I wanted them.  I chose to do all my stitching by hand instead of using my sewing machine, because the pieces are so tiny, and I didn't feel like it was worth doing battle with my sewing machine over something I could do by hand more easily anyway.

Then I turned them right-side-out.  I found that using my scissors to push the little legs through worked well.

I had to put the batting in the legs at this point, but not the head yet.  Scissors worked well for that too.

I used leftover batting from when I upholstered the headboard, so it's blanket batting, not the clumps of stuff someone might usually use for plush toys, but it worked fine for me.

I set the legs aside and went back to my sheep's face.  After making a couple sheep, I realized that sewing the eyes before I put the batting in and sewed it to the body worked best.  I should have realized that from the beginning; I'm dumb, I know.  Anyway, I used embroidery floss for the eyes, and just made a few stitches for each one.  This sheep had brown eyes, but others had different shades of blue, green and hazel.
In this pictures you can see how his little ears were attached.

Looks messy on the inside...
Cute little eyes on the outside, and aren't those floppy ears adorable?
 After getting his li'l face and legs put together I had to stitch him all together. So I laid it out like this
I pinned the ears out of the way so they wouldn't accidentally get sewed to the body
I pinned the legs and tail to both sides, just pinched in the middle of the seam, but the head was pinned so it opened into the body.  Did that make sense?  Here are some pictures:
The legs and tail only have one pin, because it goes through both layers of white and the leg/tail.
The head had two pins, one for each side of white, so it won't be flattened when I turn it right-side-out.
Hopefully that cleared up what I don't know how to explain with words.  Also, just in case this post seems crazy, just know I am on cold medicine while I'm writing this.  The last time I took any type of medication was over a year ago.  I've been off all forms of medication, as well as sushi, caffeine and a bunch of other things since we've been trying to get pregnant.  But this weekend I have the king of colds and I know I'm not pregnant so I caved, and I feel a little weird, so I'll have to proof read this next week to make sure it's not too off the wall.  I've already caught a ton of weird typos, I can't imagine how many I've missed in my drug-induced state.  Back to the topic: sheep.

I stitched around the head

and then started at the tail and stitched to in front of the front leg, leaving the chest area open.

I used that to turn the sheep right-side-out, and then to stuff it.

Because I was using blanket batting, I cut it into squares and folded them to make it kinda lumpy.  Sheep just seem like they should be lumpy to me.  I don't know why.  I also used my scraps to stuff my sheep, so it cut down on waste, and sometimes white batting shows through stretch fabric, like I was using for the head, so the black scraps in there kept that from happening.

Then I just stitched him up!

The first sheep I did took a couple hours, but after that I could whip one up in about half an hour, so I would put on a Doc Martin on Netflix and make a sheep.  I made 2-4 a day and it wasn't bad.  In total, I made 10 sheep, because that's how many clips there were on the mobile thing I got from my sister.

Right now it looks like a quite a flock; it looks just like the real thing, see?

But I think it might be a good idea to switch it up by removing the clips and stitching them onto the little rings so it looks cuter, and then stagger them at different heights so they aren't so clumped together. I don't know. I've got time; it's not like I have sleepless baby desperately waiting to count sheep at this point.  It's not even hanging anywhere.  It's just clipped to a hanger in the closet.  Well, there's my mobile for now. Hooray!  Sheep!

Thanks to Littledale Farm for the real blackface sheep photos

Saturday, August 17, 2013

There and Back Again: A Trip to Utah that Included Driving Pretty Much Across the United States Twice

So Kelly and I pretty much drove across the entire country this summer.  Twice.  Since we both had the summer off, we decided to not only attend my sister's wedding in Utah, but to drive to it from Baltimore.  And then of course we had to drive back home.  I thought I'd just document our little adventure since I am terrible at writing in my journal now, and share some pictures with whoever cares enough to read my blog.  Get ready, just like the trip this post is really long.  Here we go!

So we planned to leave on June 28, but then we just randomly decided to leave a day early, around 5AM.  So the night before we got things ready, and as nights before always go, we ended up staying up quite late.  We tried to go to bed around 1:30 or so, but the list of last things to do before shoving off in the morning kept running through my head and finally I asked Kelly if he was asleep.  He wasn't, and was just as restless at I was, so we just got up, did the last few things and hit the highway around 2:30 AM...with no sleep.  I kept thinking of the episode of The IT Crowd when Moss and Roy play hooky.  "We're bunking off!"  To see what I'm talking about go to 1:13 on the video below and watch for a couple seconds.

Anyway, we're crazy.  We drove all the way to St. Louis on no sleep.  We have driven from Utah to Baltimore before, when we moved here in June 2009, two days after our wedding, and we took I-80 that time, so to mix things up we took I-70 going out this time.  Basically we just drove straight through the first day, and spent the night just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, in Collinsville, Illinois.  The next morning we woke up early and went to the Cahokia Mounds, the largest ancient Native American site in the country.  They have a museum and archeological digs, and huge mounds built by the native people who lived there.  It was pretty interesting.

Monks Mound.  It's bigger than it looks.  See the tiny tiny person at the top of the stairs?

I walked up and back down Monks Mound.  And this is just the first half of the stairs.
St. Louis as seen from the top of Monks Mound

Then we crossed the Mississippi River into St. Louis and parked our car on the banks of the river.
Cheapest parking lot in town, I'm sure.

and we wandered around the Gateway Arch.  We chose not to go inside because the line was crazy-long, but we got some good pictures from the outside.
I was leaning up against our car when I took this picture.  See how risking our car getting flooded by the Mississippi River was worth it for parking so close and so cheap?
Ooh so artsy.
Wow! Kelly and the whole Gateway Arch!
Yes, this is my picture with the Gateway Arch.  Can we just say that Kelly is nowhere near as good of a photographer as I am? 
Okay, now I'm just showing off my artistic angles that Kelly can't even dream of capturing with his seriously-lacking photography skills.

After that we went to Park Avenue Coffee for gooey butter cake, apparently it's a thing in St. Louis, and Kelly, being the foodie that he is, tends to know what the local food is for any given place, and has to try whatever it is when we're in town.  Gooey butter cake is amazing.  I got the triple chocolate, and Kelly got the white chocolate raspberry.  And you can order it online from the place we got it (here, if you care to).  Hang on, I have to go remind Kelly my birthday is coming up so I can get some....

Okay, I'm back!  Sorry no pictures, but I don't do food pics very well.  I just eat.

We got a 2-hour metro pass and rode the subway to the Union Station and wandered around there and basically had a nice day of it.  We left St. Louis around 2PM and kept driving west.  In Kansas City we stopped for barbeque and I guess we went to the wrong place because it was disappointing.  We drove until pretty late and slept in the car at a rest stop about an hour outside of Denver and then did the last leg to Ogden, UT the next morning, but instead of saying on 70, we cut up to Cheyenne, WY and took 80 into Utah to save some time.

In Utah we had a really fun time being with our families for a month and just hanging out and enjoying our time off for the summer.
Ahern Family Portrait July 2013

Revisiting "Our Bridge" where Kelly proposed to me (and where we made out a lot while we were dating).

Cami and Robbie's wedding was beautiful, and Kel and I are super excited to have Robbie in the family. They got married in the Brigham City temple, and the luncheon was at Maddox and it was so nice as well as tasty.  The reception was at the Hilton Garden Inn in Ogden and turned out very pretty, and Cami was a gorgeous bride.
All wedding photos taken by Urban Roots Photography

My family's portrait July 2013.  (Don't mind my bad hair day.  Kelly and my grandma are lying about the fit I threw that morning while trying to wrangle it.  Shrieking profanities at my reflection?  Me?  Never!)


Hangin' out at the reception (I had gotten my hair a little more under control by that point.)

It was fun to see a lot of people that I haven't seen since my own wedding, and then I only spent about 10 seconds per person, so this time it was really great to have real conversations with aunts, uncles, and cousins like Kevin and Tanja, Jody, Julie and David and Amanda, and friends like the Marsdens, the Fennemores, the Barlows, and lots more.  I think I was asked about a kajillion times if I was still living in Baltimore and if we were ever going to move home.  I told everyone we'd love to move home, but you know, we sorta have jobs in B-more and no jobs in Utah at the moment.  So if anyone hears of good jobs in Utah or surrounding states for two history majors, let us know!

That night after cleaning up, we washed Robbie's car because his uncles and who-knows-who-all trashed it.  Turns out my parents, Bryan, Kelly, and I are excellent car washers at 2AM.  I'm sure there's some sort of niche business we could start with those skills.

We did some other fun things, too.  We went to the Fourth of July Parade in Huntsville, and had a barbeque with Kelly's family.  Then we had a second barbeque with my family.  I went on my first-ever motorcycle ride.  My brother Bryan, bought one last spring and took me on a short ride.  I thought it was really fun and realized my brother is even cooler than I thought.

My mom took Kelly, Bryan, my Aunt Jody, and me to the Utah Olympic Park where we went on the bobsled, zipline, and alpine slide.
Just about to go bobsledding!  And if you go, don't try to readjust on a short straightaway, because you will hit another corner faster than you think and the Gs will force your head back and you will not be able to get it up again.  Constant vigilance!  Also, my bad hair day had disappeared by this point.  Or did it?  I wore a helmet just to shroud that in mystery.  Kelly wore one because he's smart.
Kelly, me, Jody, and Bryan just about to go on the alpine slide.
We also went canoeing up Causey Reservoir with Kelly's parents, and after we went as far as we could we had a picnic and then rowed back.  It was nice to be outside and Kelly's mom pointed out a lot of cool birds along the way.  I also saw some hummingbirds and other pretty birds on the feeders at their house.

I was going to go canyoneering with my dad and Bryan, but I chickened out after doing the 9th Street cliffs in Ogden.  Which is weird, since I've been before.

(Wow, it seems like I should have pictures of more of these things.  Apparently I'm not a photographer, after all.)

We also had dessert at Kevin and Lindsey's new house (my brother and sister-in-law) and got the tour.  It's very nice and I'm jealous ha ha.  And we were invited to lunch at Kelly's brother's house and had fun with Eric and Keri and our two adorable nephews.  And Kelly's oldest brother Ben and his wife Holly took us to Taggart's Grill and it was delicious and we had a really fun afternoon with them.  And of course we spent most of our time between my parents' house and Kelly's parents' house.  Everyone was so great about letting us hang around and mooch food and beds and everything.  Thank you families!  We seriously have the best family ever.  Thank you everyone who fed us, housed us, lent us cars, and gave up your time to be with us.

Sooner than we could believe our month was up and it was time to drive across the country again.  Since we had done I-70 and I-80 by this point, we decided to take I-90 back to Maryland.  So we took I-15 up through Idaho, hooked onto 20 and went through Yellowstone, which was really cool.  Kel and I had both been there before, but I was not quite 6 and Kelly was about the same age, so it was fun to go as adults.

We accidentally timed Old Faithful perfectly.  We don't have smart phones so we couldn't use the app to see when the next eruption was scheduled, but we wandered up, found a seat, took a picture with it's tiny-baby steam in the background

turned around, and it erupted!

Cool, right?
We took the southern part of the loop and saw the Paint Pots and the Great Fountain Geyser,

then jumped ahead to Old Faithful (which I already wrote about in case you zoned out for a sec) and then backtracked to see the Black Sands Basin,

and also the Midway Geyser Basin where the Grand Prismatic Spring is, among other things,

and then we went up to Yellowstone Canyon to see the park's namesake and the falls.  We hiked around in there and that was fun.

We saw lots of deer and bison,

a woodpecker,

and missed wolves by a couple minutes.  Kelly was bummed.

We spent that night in Cody, Wyoming at a dumpy motel that was priced like a 5-star hotel suite and the next morning we went to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.
We even got Buffalo Bill himself to pose with us

It was pretty big, which was surprising for pretty much being in the middle of nowhere.  Some of the exhibits were Smithsonian-quality, and some were not-so-cool, but we really enjoyed the Yellowstone Natural History part, and the Native American exhibit.  We ate lunch at a local cafe and then headed east until we hooked up with a scenic byway through the Bighorn Mountains.  They were so pretty and had a lot of cool overlooks and stuff.

So flat...

Does anyone know why the road is paved red through big chunks of Wyoming and South Dakota?

Then we were able to hook onto I-90 and drove all the way to Rapid City, South Dakota where we spent the night.  The end of that day's drive was through the Black Hills and it really is amazing how all the trees really do make them look black.

Black Hills
The next morning we drove to see Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial.  We literally just drove by Mount Rushmore and snapped pictures out the car window, but we stopped at the museum by Crazy Horse and donate money so they can keep building it.  I didn't know before the fact that the government has no part in carving that, it's all still run by the family of the guy who initially started it and the money to do so all comes from museum fees and donations.
Pic from the car.  Pretty good, eh?
I didn't know there was a profile view.  I thought it was pretty cool.
You can't tell, but the Crazy Horse Memorial is right behind us.

To get back to where we wanted to be we had to drive past Mount Rushmore again, so we actually got out of the car and took some pictures from the side of the road.  I had always heard how disappointing Mount Rushmore is (same story as the Statue of Liberty), because they make it look so huge in movies, but in real life it's tiny and far away, so I was actually impressed by how big it was because I was expecting it to be dinky.  Hooray for underestimating things so they seem cool when they top your tiny expectations!
Me and Mt Rushmore
Kelly and Mt Rushmore

After that we headed east again and took a detour through the Badlands National Park which was very pretty.  I figured that if I was living back in the day I would build my house somewhere in there because if you did it right it would be pretty easy to defend.  How's that for random?

Badlands self portrait

First attempt at panoramic photo

Our plan was to drive until we got tired and spend a couple hours sleeping in a rest stop probably somewhere in Iowa, but that was before I drove over something and mostly pulled off the wheel well liner on our front passenger side.  Ironically, I think that what I ran over was actually another car's wheel well liner.  It was dark, what I ran over was black, and it blew in front of me when I was passing a semi, so I couldn't swerve.  I slammed on my brakes, but still hit it.  We patched it up as best we could on the side of the freeway, getting a kazillion mosquito bites in the process, and then stopped at the next exit which happened to be Mitchell, SD, and looked at it in the parking lot of a gas station.  It had come loose again and rubbed on the tire, which ripped the liner to shreds.  We were tired and ornery and decided to wait until it was light outside to try to fix it, so we got a room in Mitchell for the night.  The next morning we bought some zip ties and duct tape and Red-Green-showed that baby up.  Since we were stopped in Mitchell, we decided to drive by the Corn Palace since I made a shoe-box-sized parade float of the Corn Palace in fifth grade as part of my state report on SoDak.  Awesome!
Sorry for the bad phone pic
Then we drove and drove and drove and drove.  On our way to Baltimore in 2009 we stopped in Elk Horn, Iowa which is a Danish town which had a windmill that was taken down and numbered piece by piece in Denmark and then rebuilt in Elk Horn, and a really delicious Danish restaurant (also, the only place to eat in town, a detail that will be important in a minute) and we thought that was pretty cool at the time so we decided to jump from I-90 back onto I-80 so we could hit up Elk Horn again.  We took I-29 down the west side of Iowa to get onto I-80 and then got to Elk Horn just when we were getting hungry for lunch.  Unfortunately, the restaurant closed 2 minutes before we got there.  So we bought some postcards to mail to our parents (we sent postcards from Yellowstone, Cody, and Mount Rushmore the other days) and a magnet (we decided a while ago that instead of getting crap that takes up a lot of space or postcards that get stuck somewhere you never see, the only souveniers we buy are fridge magnets.  And sometimes books, but more because finding books about the Crow Indians is easier at a museum in Wyoming than Barnes and Noble at home.   But magnets are good.  They're small, they're useful, they don't require shelf/wall/drawer space, and since they go on the refrigerator, we can actually see them) (sorry for the extended tangent in parentheses; to remind you we stopped in Elk Horn, restaurant was closed, so we bought postcards and a magnet) and hit the road again.
Elk Horn Windmill. And two tired people.

We ended up driving to Toledo, Ohio before we couldn't take it anymore and slept at a rest stop for a couple hours.  Just so you appreciate how far we went that day, get a map out and notice that we drove through half of South Dakota, all of Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, and a chunk of Ohio that day.  It was interminable.  Fortunately, we had a Dave Barry audiobook to listen to or we would have gone crazy.  The next day we just plowed on until home.  We were getting as tired of being on this road trip as you are getting of reading about it. 
Kelly's tired of driving face

Apparently this is what my tired face looks like after spending two straight days in the car.

It was a relief to come home and to find everything fine with our apartment and our cat still living, though a few pound heavier.  Seriously, she's enormous.  We're so grateful for Anna and Andrea for watching our cat!  And I feel terrible that the last week we were away Libby apparently was so lonely that she decided that if she pooped on the bathroom floor a few times we would have to come back to punish her.  Thank you Andrea for cleaning up after our nasty cat, and sorry Libby for leaving you so long!  We won't do that again.  We were afraid Libby would hate us for leaving her, but luckily, she's been really lovey since we got back.  We can tell she missed us.
Home at last.  All three of us are so relieved.

So there's our Utah trip and the there and back again.  We ended up driving over 5,100 miles, and added eight magnets to our souvenir collection.  And we got our wheel well liner replaced, and yes, that is actually what it is called.  I looked it up.  Anyway, I think it'll have to be another four years before we forget enough to want to drive across the country again.  Unless we're moving home permanently.  In that case, I would pack up a U-Haul and start driving tonight.