This week marks one year since we moved to Wyoming. And one year in, we are still very happy to be here. I would guess the majority of people out there would say that Georgia and Grenada (the places we lived before here) are more beautiful than Wyoming, but we are Westerners at heart and feel much more at home on these wide open plains.

Things we love about living in Wyoming:

- The wide open sky. Georgia may have had hundreds of thousands of tall, beautiful trees, but they blocked off the sky and I only saw a handful of sunsets during our two years living there. Here in Wyoming, you can see the entire sunset from anywhere. Sunsets are my favorite.
- The sparse population. We just aren't city folk. I think there are only something like 500,000 people living in this entire state, and that sits just fine with us.
- The prairie. All that wide open prairie is what makes Wyoming feel so desolate as you're driving through, but it also feels really peaceful to live on the edge of the prairie and be able to see miles of tall grass and antelope stretching out in front of you.
- The antelope. They are so cute! I love their big, fluffy white bums. We see herds and herds of them anytime we drive into town. Really gonna miss those guys when we're gone.
- The country folk. Lots of cowboys and people who love their quiet Wyoming home. They are big rodeo fans here, which is fun. It's a good culture full of kind people.
- The trucks. This kind of goes with the last one, but EVERYONE owns a truck. Literally, like, everyone. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that nearly HALF of the cars on the Casper streets at any given time are trucks. This works out great for us anytime we find a new piece of furniture at the thrift store, or when we needed to get all the supplies to build our fence. There's always a ward member or neighbor with a truck who's willing to help you out. And since everyone has one, you can ask someone different every time and not feel guilty about it (ok, we still feel a little guilty).
- The close proximity to Utah. 7 hours is still a long drive, but not nearly as long as the 29-hour drive from Georgia. We love being able to visit family and have family visit us pretty often.
- The cool weekend trips. Casper is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but there are some really great destinations 3-4 hours away in any direction. We've got Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, Rocky Mountain national park, Devil's Tower, the Grand Tetons, and more.
- The affordability. Specifically in the housing market. Three cheers for being able to buy a house here! And with the way the market's going, it looks like we'll be able to sell for a profit when we move. Gas is also really cheap here. It's been right around $2 a gallon the majority of the time we've lived here (that's been rising lately, but it's still cheaper than everywhere else).
- The low taxes.
- The dryness. For the first time in half a decade, I can curl/straighten my hair and expect it to last for days.
- The perfect summers.

There are also a few things we don't love: the never-ending wind, the lonnnnng winters, the lack of family in our state . . . but the good absolutely outweighs the bad. 
(a photo from last summer right after we moved here)

Oh, and to give some updates on my last post:

(1) There have bene no more attempted break-ins. We got our security cameras up and running last week and we all feel a bit more at ease now. We also like knowing that we can check in on our house when we're out of town now. Jared is done working nights so I won't have to sleep alone and be paranoid anymore.

(2) We haven't heard anything back from the Evanston job opening. I'm inclined to think they've either already filled the position, or they're just not looking for a first-year resident intern who still has two years of training ahead of him. In the meantime, Jared's applied to a position or two in Washington to test the waters up there. We aren't planning to sign in Washington anytime soon, but we want to see what the pay is like and if they offer loan repayment help up there. It'll probably be another year before we sign anywhere. We're going to keep our eyes peeled for any other Southern Wyoming positions that may open up, while also keeping an eye out for anything exceptionally interesting in Washington, where Jared's family is. All we know is that we ant to continue creeping closer to family after we're done with residency. 

(3) It is officially summery in Wyoming now! Hopefully that means we'll be going on lots more local adventures and I'll have more interesting blog posts ahead. Jared has Tuesday and Wednesday off this week (he's in a new ER rotation where Tuesday and Wednesday are his "weekend"). We're thinking about driving up to Sheridan and exploring the Bighorn Mountains.
One Year in Wyoming

Fun things from this week:

1. We had an attempted home break-in. Ok, definitely not "fun" but definitely the biggie of the week. Jared was working a night shift so I was home alone. I heard our gate open, or what sounded like someone up against our house. This was around 10:30, right after I had gone to bed. I blew it off as just my imagination. Then less than a minute later, someone was at our back door trying to get in. I'm impressed that my instincts had me springing out of bed and slamming on every light in the house instead of running to hide. I felt like I was in Home Alone. Savvy Dog went ballistic at the back door, growling and barking. Good doggo. That seemed to scare them away because we didn't hear anything after that. I spent the next half hour pacing the house holding our handgun and talking to my brother Jordan on the phone until I wasn't so freaked out anymore. Savvy continued growling at the back door until I let her out to sniff and make sure they were gone like 10 minutes later.

Unfortunately Jared had to work the next two nights as well. On one of those nights I blocked our gate with our garbage can, only to find that it had been moved the next morning and there were foreign shoeprints in our backyard. Whyyyyyyy. We have since notified the police and our neighbors (one of whom is a police officer and is parking her car out front now). We've installed a lock on the gate and ordered security cameras. I'm still paranoid but not nearly as much as I was last week. I will say that I have a million times during residency been SO HAPPY we have a dog. When Jared is on night shifts or on away rotations, I feel way less wary knowing that I have Savvy with me to scare off the bad guys/alert us if something's off.


2. Jared sent out his CV for his very first potential post-training job! He still has two more years of residency training so it's doubtful that anything will come of it unless they're reallllly desperate for a doctor and willing to wait two years for him, but it's still exciting! The job is in Evanston, Wyoming. At first we just blew past it (he gets emails from job recruiters every day and we ignore most of them), but then we were like, "Waaaaaaait a minute, Evanston is right by Utah. It's, like, literally less than 2 hours from my family, and right by Jared's family cabin in Bear Lake. Also it's Wyoming, which is a nice place to be and usually offers help with loan repayment. Let's look into this." Our ultimate goal is to end up back in Utah Valley, but Utah pays their family med doctors pathetically little. Like, it's enough that we could for sure live off a Utah family med salary, but not enough that we'd be able to pay off those med school loans for probably like 20+ years, even being the scary frugal people we are. So our tentative plan has been to go somewhere else after residency until his loan is paid off, and then go be by family. Evanston is literally the closest we could get and still have good loan repayment options. I'll keep you updated!


3.  We spent the weekend together! The weeks when Jared has to work nights drag on forevvvverrrrrr. It feels like the weekend is never going to come. But come it did! And with it, a bunch of snow! Why, Wyoming, why? We had wanted to go for a little adventure and do some hiking or exploring, but with the icky freezing weather it just wasn't going to happen. So instead our "adventure" was taking the dog to the Bar Nunn dog wash. And now there is snow on the forecast for 4 more days this week. Ughhhhhhhh. Give me good weather or give me death.


Quick Update

I wanted to share these pictures of me and my baby today. Jack has been pretttttty tough this last week. A couple days ago I called Jared in tears while he was at work, and blubbered on about how I was terrified we're raising a psychopath because Jack LOVES causing and seeing others in pain. The happiest I've ever seen Jack is when he yanks his dog's ears and she yelps in pain, or when he pulls my hair or grabs my nose with such an intense death grip that I actually start crying. That just delights him so much. Jared reminded me that Jack is a baby, and all babies like getting a reaction from something they can do, since babies don't have control over a lot. There has also been an excess of whining and tantruming this last week, but I think and hope that's in large part due to teething.
Yesterday was a Mother's Day I hope I always remember. After I got all ready for church (by the way, none of these pictures are me dressed up for church--I changed back into my t-shirt dress jammies right when we got home), Jared banished me to our room while he got flowers and gifts on the table and made me breakfast. While I was sitting on our bed texting my mom, bedhead Jack pushed his way into our room holding a book. He flashed me the biggest smile and toddled on over, handed me his book, and sat down next to me. I only got about two pages in before he ran away, but it was still sweet. The breakfast was waffles made from a mix that Jared only added maybe a teaspoon of water too. They came out hard and dense as rocks and were completely inedible, but I feel like that's an important part of at least one Mother's Day meal haha. 
Jack spent the first hour of church giving me a run for my money. I never really hear anything that's said when I have Jack with me. He only stays entertained with any given distraction for 20-30 seconds at a time, and if he's not being successfully distracted, he's either screaming or trying to run away, and then screaming even more when I don't let him run away. I always feel like I've run a marathon by the time church is over. Jared was substituting in nursery and took Jack with him during second hour. Jack loved that, and Jared said he did great with all the other kids. Can't wait for him to go to nursery every week.
After church Jack and I drove around while Jared got set apart as Sunday School President and had a little meeting with his councilors. Jared insisted it would only be 15 minutes, but I knew it would be longer so I was hoping I could get Jack to fall asleep since he was 3 hours overdue for a nap. Ugh, Sundays. Unfortunately Jack wouldn't fall asleep and it was an hour before Jared was done. I was a very grumpy mom on that drive home. I gave everyone the silent treatment and downed my king-size Symphony bar from the bishopric while I glared at everything. Zero regrets about any of that. Once home I went straight to bed and everyone took a nice, long nap.
I felt much better after I woke up and ate some lunch. Jared and Jack slept for another hour (the best mother's day gift of all), and when they woke up I opened my presents from them. They did a really. good. job. My expectations were shockingly low so maybe that helped. One bag was full of my favorite candies, and the other bag was full of little gifts that Jack "picked out" for me. My favorite was this unicorn necklace and matching earrings that apparently Jack pointed at in Wal-Mart and grunted that he "wanted to get it for me." I'm never taking it off. Jared also got me a little journal that he wrote an entry in on what Jack's like right this moment and how much Jack loves me. He says he'll update it every year and add a polaroid of me and Jack. So sweet. He also got me some crayons and sidewalk chalk to do with Jack. We spent all afternoon together in our newly fenced backyard, enjoying the sunshine and chalking on our patio. It was perfect.
Later that afternoon, it was too nice outside to resist taking a little Sunday walk. We ended up at the playground by our house, where me and Jack swung together for a few minutes before going home to call our moms.
Somehow my dad was able to pull off getting ALL of my siblings and their spouses in on a video chat, even my brother on his mission. We told my mom how much we loved her and then gave her the gift my dad also orchestrated: a mother's ring with each of our birth stone's in it. We each gifted her our own birth stone and wrote her a little note about what our stone means and how much we love her. My parents are gems.

We also called Jared's mom, who is in China with his Dad! Looking back, I think we probably called her in the middle of the night in China, oops. Jack was at the end of his rope by this time so mostly I had to be on tantrum-prevention duty, but Jared got to have a nice little chat with his mom too. After they hung up, we threw some brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and steaks in the oven to broil. Mmmm. Jack only made it halfway through dinner before he had a meltdown and we put him to bed. At least he was cute and a lot of fun during the afternoon. We had a wonderful day together. Being a mother often drains me physically, mentally, and emotionally, but I'm so grateful I get to do it.
Mother's Day

Digging into my stores of photos I've never done anything with to bring you today's post! These pictures were taken last June, on one of our very first weekends living in Wyoming. Exploring your town always feels extra magical during your first month or two living there.
The city of Casper lies at the base of Casper Mountain--the only moderately large mountain for probably an hour in any direction. Casper mountain is beautiful, but it's not like there are an endless numbers of trails you can explore. There are maybe 5-6 good ones. The first time we drove up Casper mountain to go hiking, the only trails we could find didn't allow dogs. So we kept driving and driving, up to the top of the mountain, and then over into some fields of cows and what turned out to be "Muddy Mountain." It's a hidden mountain behind Casper that is popular with ATVers. There aren't really any "destination" type hikes, but there are lots of trails. On this day we picked one and walked until we hit a private property fence with a decent view.


Jack was just 3-4 months old at the time. He slept for most of the hike, and then we had to stop for a nursing break on our hike back to the car. Luckily we were the only ones on the trail, and we found a spot with a nice view of a pond.
On the same weekend we did the Muddy Mountain hike, we took Jack to his first rodeo. It was only my second rodeo. We all loved it! Casper hosts the College National Finals rodeo every year, and it all happens just a 5-minute drive from our house.
We didn't last long because it was loud and our baby's bedtime, but Jack was enamored. I think it would be cool to have Jack grow up doing a rodeo sport or two. Not bull riding, but maybe mutton tying or something with horses. I'm excited for rodeo season to start back up again this summer! The cowboy culture is real here in Wyoming. It's pretty cool.

Muddy Mountain + Jack's First Rodeo

Everyone needs a Dottie in their life. Dottie was my college roommate during our first half of college. She's one of my closest friends. She flew to Utah from Texas just to come to my baby shower last year! She always shows up for me and everyone else and I really admire her for that. She's a true Texas belle. 
A couple months ago, Dottie found out she had a long weekend for Easter, so she booked a flight to come see lil' ol' me in middle-of-nowhere Casper. She had never met bb Jack before, and this was a great time for her to meet him. He's a lot of fun now that he's walking around. He's also a lot of trouble, but we'll let that slide. Dottie flew into Denver from Houston (it's really expensive to fly directly into Casper's airport), and then she rented a car to drive the last 4 hours of the trek. 
She arrived late Thursday afternoon. Jack woke up from a nap right as she got here. He was pretty grumpy but by later that evening he had warmed up to her and he loved playing with her all weekend. Now he can even point her out in pictures when we ask, "Where's Dottie?" We spent the first evening just relaxing, making an incredible quiche together, doing face masks (shoulda snagged a selfie), and watching Jeopardy. Dottie is awesome at Jeopardy. Me, not so much.
Her timing for coming to visit could not have been better. Jared had 2 WHOLE DAYS OFF (basically just a normal weekend, but he hasn't had one of those in months) where he could watch Jack while we hit the town. On Friday we explored downtown Casper. We started at Lou Talbert's enormous cowboy store, and then explored some local boutiques. Dottie treated me to my first ever gel manicure (life changing--I will be doing this anytime I go on a long trip in the future), and then I treated her to a shake at Rialto's--an old-timey shake and soda shop. I got a lavender Italian soda. 5 out of 5 stars, would recommend. We had dinner at The Hangar in Bar Nunn and then relaxed at home.
On Saturday, Jack wore the world's most adorable outfit that Dottie brought him. It's a pair of black skinny jeans with suspenders and a long red shirt. It suits him so perfectly. If Jack was a color he would be red. We all went to Casper's art museum together and were the only ones there the entire time. On a Saturday, I might add. Maybe this should have clued us in that it's nothing to write home about, but at least I can say I've been now. It would have been a fine free activity, but when we got there we found out there's a $5 entrance fee. Dottie sneakily paid for us while Jared went out to the car to grab his wallet. There was a fun little kid's play section. Jack was mostly entrance in climbing the stairs to the off-limits second floor. I liked the art exhibits ok, but I wish there had been more variety. More fiber art, please!
In the evening, Jack and Jared went to get some fence supplies (Jared is building us a fence) while me and Dottie went to the mall. It was so so fun. I don't think I've done a mall trip like that since before I got married 5 years ago. We hit every single store that looked interesting (good thing Casper's mall isn't very big), and we tried on so many clothes. I snagged a couple of shirts I loved that were less than $5 each. We got boba drinks, did the massage chairs, and felt like middle-aged women. Then we grabbed some Easter eggs at Target on our way out so we could do an Easter egg hunt with Jack the next day.
We started Easter Sunday at church. Jared had to work a 24-hour shift from Easter morning into Monday. I'm so glad Dottie was there to help me wrangle Jack and pick him up for me since I had strained my back the day before. She was shocked at how active/exhausting he was. I was impressed that it was such a "good" week and I only had to take him out once to avoid a tantrum! He was still allll over the place, but I guess I've gotten used to it. 
After Jack's post-church nap, we indulged him in a little Easter egg hunt. We "hid" a couple inside, and then we placed a dozen more out on the front lawn. Jack would pick one or two up and put them in the basket, and then he'd want to take them out and throw them across the room one at a time. Once we went outside and he figured out there was chocolate in the eggs, he took to throwing them all immediately in hopes that they would break open and chocolate would spill out. I'm glad we did it. Dottie gets all the credit for this year's hunt--it didn't even occur to me to hide Easter eggs with Jack being so young, but it was fun.
We watched a couple movies and I made a ham dinner that I hoped we could take Jared at the hospital so we could all eat together. Unfortunately, he had a couple new admits show up right around dinner/Jack's bedtime, so we put crazy Jack down and ate at home. Usually I handle plans falling through due to doctor stuff pretty well, but it was hard this time with it being a holiday. Dottie was nice enough to send me off to see him later that evening when things calmed down at the hospital.
This morning was Dottie's last little bit of time in Casper before she had to drive to Denver to catch her flight home. We took some pictures together and Jack got a kick out of rolling her luggage around the house.
We are going to miss Dottie! I didn't realize how much I needed a weekend of true girl time. It has been way. too. long. It was refreshing to feel like a girl again and treat ourselves to face masks, manicures, chick flicks, and malling. Dottie even showed me how dating apps worked and let me swipe left on a bunch of profiles, which I've always wanted to do, haha. Next time we will have to go visit Dottie in Houston! It's going to be tough to decide if I want to go along and actually enjoy my time there, or bring Jack so he can play with Aunt Dottie. I guess there's plenty of time to decide. We love you Dottie!
Dottie Days

This week's post is going to be another photo dump. It's a month's worth of Utah adventures condensed into one post, so I'll keep it as simple as possible.
^^On our drive from Casper to UT we stopped at a Burger King, thinking that Jack would enjoy crawling around the play place. Unfortunately most of their play stuff was too big for Jack to enjoy it, but at least he got to eat french fries and wear this cool crown.
^^Jack always got so excited when we'd make the drive from SLC to Orem to hang out at my parents' house. Jack is a BIG fan of Grandma and Grandpa. Not only was Jack's bff Savvy staying with my parents all month (thanks guys), but they have a flight of stairs for Jack to climb up and down, plus a dog door leading out to their deck where Jack could play and people watch to his heart's content. As soon as the ground starts to warm up here in Casper we're going to fence in our yard and get a dog door. More so for the baby than for the dog haha.
 ^^We escaped Wyoming at the very best time! Daylight savings happened right when we got to Utah, so it was almost always still light outside when Jared got home from work and we could go for walks in the increasingly nice weather.
 ^^All these photos are going to be of Jack. I was in denial that I would be "that mom" before I had a baby, but how can I NOT take a million pictures of that cute squishy body??
 ^^One of our top 3 Utah eateries: Terra Mia (for authentic Italian pizza and San Pellegrino sodas)
 ^^Splashing around the Great Salt Lake.
 ^^Jared probably wouldn't want me posting this picture, but they are just too coot!!!! One of my favorite pics ever.
 ^^Jack wearing his cute summer jammies as an outfit before he outgrows them. Chunker is already in 18-month clothes.
Carseat naps are the besssst. I'm always so pleasantly surprised when they happen. During our 7-hr drive back to Casper at the end of our trip, JAck only napped for 20 minutes the entire time. It was awful. Poor bb.
 ^^Selfies during some of our walks/hikes. Jared was regularly working 70-80 hours a week this rotation and only getting maybe one day a week off if he was lucky. So me and Jack had a lot of bonding time. Ugh, a career in medicine is not for the faint of heart.
 ^^A little Cafe Rio date! We brought Jack with us but it was honestly like he wasn't even there. Usually he's a little monster on outings, but he was happy to people watch the whole time this day. Also, did you know that kids under 6 eat for free at Cafe Rio?!
 This was our favorite hike we did in SLC. Granted, we didn't do many. Jack learned to walk in UT, and he was not happy to be confined to a carrier for longer than about 10 minutes at a time after that. This was a portion of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail with a view of the Capitol.
^^One of the worst nights we have ever had, including his colicky newborn nights. I think this was our second night in our SLC basement apartment? Jack WOULD NOT sleep. I don't know if it's because his crib was in a tiny closet, or if he was having constipation or teething issues, or something else entirely. He kept waking up and crying every 20 minutes, and nothing we would do would calm him down enough to fall back asleep quickly. Eventually around 1:00 in the morning, it become clear that Jack thought he was up for the day and was not going to go back to sleep. So I sent Jared out to sleep on the couch, since he was having a bit of an anxiety attack at this point knowing he'd have to wake up at 5 a.m. for a high-pressure day at work, and I went about quietly entertaining a very high-energy Jack in our bedroom for the next 3 hours as though it was the middle of the afternoon. Woof. So exhausting. Jack's not the type of baby to sit still for...anything. Not even in the middle of the night. Not even for tv, or snuggling, or food, or anything. We bounced around between hide and seek, Little Baby Bum, snacks, and a very traumatic diaper change in which he wouldn't sit still and eventually it smeared all over everything. Eventually he reached for his crib around 4:00 a.m. and then he thankfully slept in until 8 or 9. We spent the next night at my parents' house and he was fine from then on.
Engagement hill on Pi Day, the day Jared and I got engaged. Jared had to be in SLC, but Jack and I went for a nice little hike to the place Jared proposed to me 6 years ago. We were together with Jared in the evening. We tried to eat at The Pie pizzeria because our engagementersary tradition is to have pie. It was crazy crowded though and Jack wasn't having it, so we grabbed a Little Caesar's and called it a day. Pizza pie totally counts as pie.
^^A lovely spring walk around the Capitol building.
 ^^ I drove down to Daybreak with Jack one day to walk around the lake and just enjoy the Daybreak-ness with some good food. Bad idea. The drive was almost an hour each way, Jack of course wouldn't let me sit and enjoy any food, and tantrums abounded. He did like watching the ducks though.
 ^^I'd like to entitle this picture "Jack reppin the U."
^^This was my favorite morning of the trip. We went to a little restaurant called The Park (I think) that was across the street from Liberty Park. It was very quaint and hipster. They gave Jack a bowl of animal crackers while we waited for our food, and a coffee cup full of water so he could sip on it and it wouldn't go everywhere. So thoughtful! And we were seated by the door so Jack kept happy just watching everyone come in and go out. The waitress was awesome and recommended we split a meal because they're so big! I appreciated that so much because I always feel like waiters get kinda bugged when we split a meal, but we are very poor and one entree is almost always plenty of food for the both of us. The food was really good, but honestly the staff was what made the place amazing for us. I'd definitely recommend it to all you Utah peeps.
 After our yummy breakfast, we walked around Liberty Park and rented this scooter for half an hour, which we traded off riding around the park.
 ^^Antelope Island! I had never been before. It exceeded my expectations. It's way bigger than I thought it was, too. We only had about an hour and a half to spend there before Jared had to hurry home and get ready for his night shift, but I would gladly go back and spend a whole day or two. Don't even ask why Jack's pants are off. It's a whole big poopy diaper story. But it makes a funny picture!
 This cheesy grin Jack started doing a few weeks ago is everything.
Our last Sunday in SLC, we went for a walk around temple square. It was so lovely and the spring flowers were out. I loved watching Jack walk back and forth between me and Jared.
Jack did NOT like being confined to our little basement apartment. Once he figured out there were stairs and dirt right outside the front door, he starting throwing legit tantrums at the front door all day wanting to go out. I gave him this balloon and he'd throw it up and down the stairs and play in the dirt. He loves being outside.
We snagged this selfie outside our SLC home after we loaded up our car on our last day and were about to drive away. It was nice to be near family and escape the wind for a month, and Jared learned a LOT during his rotation, but we are very happy to be back home in Casper again.
And that's the condensed version of our wonderful month in Utah! So many of my favorite moments don't have pictures to go with them, like having a ladies' lunch with my mom and grandma at Maria Bonitas, where we all ordered the exact same Chimichanga dish (we must be related). I also enjoyed going to visit my college roommate Sarah Kay just before she and her husband loaded up everything to move to Chicago. I got to meet my childhood best friend Julie's new baby too! There is never enough time to see all I want to see and visit all the people I want to visit when we do a trip to Utah. That's why I rarely post to social media when we're there--I know I won't have time to hang out with all the people who reach out to me and that makes me so sad! Luckily our long-term plan is to settle down in Utah 3-6 years from now, and then we can see all the people all the time. Can't wait.
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