Badlands NP

The weather was nice, Harper didn’t, have school, the entrance fee was waved and it’s my birthday so we went outside to Badlands National Park. We did a few small trails including a juniper forest and massive canyon but mostly we climbed and explored.

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The Holiday Express

I’m a borderline crazy Christmas person. Having kids creates a new level of magic in that you are responsible for creating it and in return receive the pleasure of watching it all unfold.

This year we finally made it onto the historic 1880 Train‘s Holiday Express. The ride was out of Hill City, about halfway to Keystone you arrive at “The North Pole” and pick up Santa. On the way there they pass out delicious hot chocolate and sugar cookies. I was shocked at how good they were. After Santa boards the train he comes around and talks to each child while handing out silver sleigh bells. The cost isn’t cheap but for under $100 for our family it was a special and you can’t put a price on memories.

Notes/Tips:

  • You can bring food/drinks onto the train, we went on the 4:15 so I knew my boys would need more then a sugar cookie so I brought snacks in containers.
  • The trains are mildly heated, meaning on a cold night you’ll be comfortable but with your coat left on. Remember you don’t get on the train without waiting in line outside and it’s in Hill City which is probably a few degrees cooler than Rapid.
  • The speaker system on the train is awful and with so many kids you are unlikely to hear what they are saying, therefor you’ll want to read (or watch) The Polar Express before your ride.
  • While it’s a great ride for all ages, our 3 year old loved it the most so I’d say if you only plan on going once, wait for that 3-4 age range. Our 5 year old, who loves trains, had fun but was a little unimpressed afterwards.
  • If your family has a busy schedule or you feel particular about the times book your tickets early, as in November or the first week of December.
  • Take the train during the summer as well, it’s a great experience.IMG_0341.JPG.jpegimg_0334-jpgimg_0086
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Denver Mini Vacation

Sometime in June I started to feel the itch to get out. I’d been in SD too long and needed a trip, even a little mini trip to ease my soul. My first proposal was to Chad “lets go to Denver, take the kids to the zoo, do some shopping” but the mere thought of that stressed Chad out. I understand, we have 3 kids now, but any short lived stress seemed worth the experience to me. Chad was out but I wasn’t. I’d driven with 2 kids alone and figured 3 wouldn’t be much different, maybe some new challenges but nothing I couldn’t handle. Though, it did sound lonely just me and 3 kids so I thought it best and I mean BEST to invite my sister. It worked out even better than I imagined because she deals with my kids amazingly well, helping a ton, plus who wouldn’t want to go shopping with their sister? Just like old times in AZ only adding in 3 crazy boys.

I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. There was some stress involved but the memories that are taken away from trips like these make a life. Harper still tells people about going to Denver and both boys now jump in any elevator they get into, high speed or not.

 

Aside

The Rock Maze

Went on a little hike today to the rock maze. It’s a super short walk from the car but provided tons of entertainment as the kids explored the “caves” forcing both Chad and I to squeeze through the tiniest crevices. Please excuse Willem’s mid 90’s “coming out of the grunge” style. Part of the boys terrible twos is wanting to pick out his own clothes so denim shorts, tye dye and cowboy boots it was.

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Snack break was pathetic. As a mother to boys I know that snacks make the world go around and can prevent any meltdown. I should have been prepared with a pack full of food however I grabbed what we had, crackers and craisins. Apparently any food is good food because Harper was thrilled by it and kept thanking me for bringing a snack

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Of course we stopped on the way home to fulfill the promise of throwing rocks in the water.

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Ol’Miss

In mid May we (Harper, Willem and I) flew from South Dakota to Phoenix and then from Phoenix to Biloxi for my mothers wedding. It was a beautiful weekend celebration filled with family, food, fun and maybe a little alcohol. Traveling with two small children without their co creator wasn’t easy and may have included an ER visit but I would do it all over again in in a heartbeat.

We arrived on Thursday, where I found out not only was my car rental off-site (not a good thing when traveling with 2 kids, 2 carseats, a stroller and a suitcase) but also that it closed at 8 (our original 7:30 time was bumped thanks to the us airways/ american airlines merger that week). I’d suggest never renting a car through Hotwire because they didn’t inform me of any of this, it was a complete surprise but more of a shock that I was shit out of luck late at night at the airport with 2 kids that had been flying all day. Luckily my wonderful grandparents took me on a wild goose chase in the morning to track down a rental for me.

Once we all settled we began to enjoy the south. I was thrilled that one of my long time best friend and her husband drove down from Baton Rouge to hang out with us. My boys had their first trip to the ocean, which they both loved and might have swam in a tad before we knew about the bacteria warning (will get them back to the ocean asap). We even took a trip on the schooner or “pirate ship” as we told Harper who had started to succumb to an ear infection at that point (as we found out in the ER at 5am the next morning). Willem had a blast, driving the ship, dictating what he wanted to do, insisting the rules of where we could and couldn’t go did not apply to him and repeatedly demanding “mo ice.” The schooner was a highlight for me because I had my first po’boy sandwich and it was better than I could even know, looking back I taste breaded shrimp and mayo, perfect. Even more perfect is the fact that we had about 6 different kinds of beer on the boat but no water or any other beverage. All I can say is that we know how to have a good time and will force you to as well.

The main reason we all trekked down to Mississippi was of course, the wedding. I had been nervous about even being able to attending the wedding thanks to my kids being sick. Harper had been diagnosed with an ear infection and Willem had developed his own fever by then. After a trip to the pharmacy I was equipped with antibiotics, Motrin and a smart thermometer (very cool). Luckily by the afternoon their temps had started to fall, unfortunately the weather started to act up. I have heard that rain on your wedding day is good luck, what about tornados? We never saw an actual tornado but buckets of rain had fallen, again it worked out and the weather was ideal for an outdoor ceremony.

The venue was a sweet little restaurant, Maison de Lue in downtown Ocean Springs. It was intimate and slightly formal but in a familiar way, like being invited into someones private restaurant as their guest. The staff was warm, keeping me company when I was stuck watching my kids play on the patio yet constantly professional at the same time. They were very good at taking care of us all around including making my boys the most amazing fish sticks I had ever had in my life. They literally melted in my mouth AND they brought them out first, a big deal when it comes to eating out with kids. The food was amazing and the drinks superb. If you find yourself in Ocean Springs make an effort to try it out, you feel that southern hospitality while your palate is treated to southern cuisine.

The wedding itself was wonderful, short, sweet and no awkwardness from the pastor (a pet peeve of mine that is often found at weddings, sometimes they just say weird things!). James and my mother looked incredible as their happiness shined through them. You could feel in the air not only how pleased the guests where with this marriage but also relieved that they had chosen each other and made the commitment. It’s magical to witness such a wonderful feeling. Everyone had a great time that evening and went home happy.

I’m not sure that we will ever return to Mississippi, I can not imagine what might take us there, but I am so grateful for the experience. To take my boys, their first trip to the ocean, seeing old friends, time with family, including extended and future in-laws, wonderful food, laughs, walks, and of course adding another person into our family, welcome to the madness James.
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