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.

 

My First Day as a School Parent

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I just dropped Harper off at school. Didn’t cry a single tear, not even almost. My heart swelled with love and pride for my kind-hearted boy.

As soon as we walked onto the playground Harper put his backpack down next to a tree and said “it’s okay mom, you can go now, I’m okay by myself.” I laughed and told him to go play, I wanted to stay a little. I watched him swing, going high without a push, I watched him yell and wave at the kids he knew and I knew he was more then ready to be there.

He’s going to do great and have a blast being in school, he has always thrived in groups. I, unlike many moms facing kindergarten for the first time, was ready for him to take this huge step, my biggest issue is understanding how is it possible that I am old enough to have a kid in school? I feel like I just graduated and was married last year, now I have 3 kids and one is old enough to be away from me all day? It’s mind boggling and at the same time a reminder of how exciting life is, cliche but also how quickly it goes. I remember when he was a baby I’d think about this day and consider that I’d be fairly young, as I was only 24 (6 days from 25) when he was born, thinking I might be one of the younger moms. However now that that day has arrived (probably due to having 3 kids and being a parent for 5 years now) I don’t feel young, I feel thrusted into middle age by the 3 that proceeds the zero as well as the fact that I have a kid in school.

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Walking home, alone, I wasn’t sad. I wondered how we got to this place- How was I old enough to have a kid in school?! I mentally tried to recall everything I’d put in his backpack, did he have his snack, the party money, all his school supplies- what did I forget? Am I trustworthy enough to be a parent of a school aged kid? I now have to be responsible for making sure he does his homework, wakes up early enough and eats enough even when I’m not around. And now all this stuff matters and truly affects the outcome of his future! I feel like I just got past the fear of SIDS with him and now I’m suddenly worried about creating good homework habits.

One thing I realized about myself as mother today, I am a mama bird. I’m not a tiger-mom, helicopter-mom, mama bear, dragon-mom or any of those slightly terrifying parenting pictures. I love my kids, I keep them safe and close but when they are ready to fly I push them out and watch them fail or soar. And it’s at that point that I find the most enjoyment, watching them grow and become people, individuals outside of us.

 

 

Harper is Turning 5!

Today starts Harper’s last week as a 4 year old! Four has been the most challenging age so far mostly because he has truly started testing limits with blatant defiance, luckily it’s all a normal part of growing up and his big heart is always underneath the layers of naughtiness.
Without getting sappy and remembering the last year, the last 5 years and how much my boy has grown I’ll get to the point. I asked Harper some his annual birthday questions, the answers where as to be expected.

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little things with little people

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Last night I took a beer out of the fridge looking to my chance at drinking a beer on my back patio and possilby enjoying some fine chocolates (potty training m&m’s) while my kids were in bed. Instead Willem came to the top of the stairs with the over tired cry of “mommmmaa.” Asking me to put him to sleep.

I was annoyed, I didn’t want to lay down with him, I wanted to enjoy our warm weather and my cold beer but I had no choice and I scooped him up and took him to bed.

As we laid down he took my face into his hands whispering into my cheek, his eyes giving me butterfly kisses and in that moment I knew there was nothing I would rather be doing.

In 20 years this is how I want to remember his toddlerhood.

Why I’m Bad at Making Friends

A few years ago I took a pretty in depth personality quiz. I remember it was long and I remember hearing “if you get this answer (the answer I did get) then you probably don’t have a lot of friends.” For some that might seem harsh but in my mind I thought: Yes! I haven’t had many friends, I can’t help that, it’s just how God made me! I was fairly relieved to have an excuse as to why I didn’t seem to have a gaggle of girls to go to constantly, even my bridal party was a one person party, my sister. To further explain the “you have no friends” answer it was answered that I tend to be overly honest, blunt, loud, and I have a general social disability when it comes to taking the first steps in a friendship. Add in the fact that I wear my emotions on my face (and my emotions are usually disapproval for some reason) and you do not have someone with many close friends.

This girl is definitely a soul mate of mine. We are destined to be together even my husband has commented that we can never move because she and I can not be separated.

This girl is definitely a soul mate of mine. We are destined to be together even my husband has commented that we can never move because she and I can not be separated.

So growing up I constantly had a good girl friend but it was usually only one. Don’t worry, I still had friends, most of them boys, some girls but I usually kept them at arms length because I didn’t need a large amount of friends it felt like too much responsibility when I just wanted to play, I just one or two really good ones to rely on and in return I was a good and reliable friend to them. Even from a young age I hated drama and kept it to a minimum.

I remember when we moved across town the summer after 4th grade. I attached myself to the other new girl when we started 5th grade at our new school. When October came around I asked her point blank if she would go trick or treating with me, really I had no one else to go with because she and I were the only two that lived in our new development, but she liked soccer and also had dark hair and freckles like I did. After that we stuck together and played every day except Sundays and Wednesdays. Right before 7th grade I moved to Arizona, and Megan came to visit during spring break, she confessed that she did not like me  before I asked her to go trick or treating (I was loud and confident or as I like to say now, I was a boss), she had no one else to go with so she said yes. This confession actually did not hurt me, it did surprise me a little but it more just reaffirmed how I had always felt about myself.

High school friends. These 2 are some of my oldest friends. What's great is even though we met at 14 they have grown into awesome women that I still adore. This picture was from my wedding 5 years ago! Haven't seen them in almost that long but I know we pick right up where we left off. I have to add that they are some of the most fun girls I've ever met.

High school friends. These 2 are some of my oldest friends. What’s great is even though we met at 14 they have grown into awesome women that I still adore. This picture was from my wedding 5 years ago! Haven’t seen them in almost that long but I know we pick right up where we left off. I have to add that they are some of the most fun girls I’ve ever met.

This is how my life has played out. I wear my emotions on my face too often. I’m timid about approaching other females, and in return they see me as intimidating (my college roommates would tell me this later after remembering our first encounter where I said little to them because I was shy, yet they saw it as aloofness).

Now that we live in a place I consider our forever home I’ve revisited what it is to make friends again especially with kids in tow. Many moms feel anxiety when it comes to making friends. Part of this is just the everyday stress that having kids creates making it hard to make plans or even phone calls but another part is the fact that we have created or been warned about mommy wars. We want to be friends with those that support us so if we feel like we are being judged for whatever parenting choice we make shy away from others who are not in the same situation making of a whole new level of insecurity. This isn’t good, plain and simple, on both ends we need to be more open, willing to put ourselves out there and more accepting of those that do not make the same choices we do. I look for friends who are understanding, support me, keep me honest and are honest with me (and preferably love wine, food, don’t mind messes, are flexible and laugh a lot). I accept them how they are and hopefully they do the same for me. I look forward to making new friends, I feel like I can pick them out pretty easily but it’s hard for me to make the right steps towards companionship without being super awkward.

This beautiful new mom is another long time friend that doesn't live close but that doesn't matter. I love that we started friends as single ladies and that motherhood has made us even closer. We know each others life stories pretty intimately, she's my go to person when it comes to matters in Christ.

This beautiful new mom is another long time friend that doesn’t live close but that doesn’t matter. I love that we started friends as single ladies and that motherhood has made us even closer. We know each others life stories pretty intimately, she’s my go to person when it comes to matters in Christ. 

So what is my friendship situation like currently? I’m in love with my long-term friends that are spread all around the states and here in S. Dakota. I’d say I have two very close friends that I can lean on anytime and a few more that I’m hoping grown into great friendships. I feel supported and loved, I am not alone, it’s encouraging and wonderful, a nice way to live.

If you are a mom or are moving to a new area or both here is what I suggest to make friends: Find local activities, MOPS groups, Hike it Baby groups, find a local church that you like, get a part time job, volunteer, go to library story times, sign up for an adult education class, or join a yoga studio. Find something that you like to do, be brave and put yourself out there and the universe will bring you someone to you, be patient and open, sometimes the really good ones take a while to appear.

The Fourth

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We celebrated the fourth of July in the geographic center of the United States, Belle Fourche, South Dakota. It was beyond American, hundreds of people lined up and down the streets wearing red, white and blue and drinking coffee or beer at 10am.

This was our second year going to the Belle Fourche parade and I think we will be there for years to come.
Growing up in the nineties my family, immediate and extended, all traveled down to an itty bitty town in Iowa named Battle Creek. This is where my grandmother was from and where my great grandmother still lived. We would camp in my Great Grandma Wonder’s back yard (as well as the rest of the family, think 2 campers and a few tents in a city home’s backyard) and head down to the parade. The parade involved pretty much everyone from the surrounding towns, firetrucks and shriners, they would throw tootsie-rolls and dumdums and we would jump and run after every piece of candy that flew past us. After the parade the kids would walk over to the baseball fields where we would pay a small fee and pick out our frogs for the frog jumping contest, my frog never won, this would be followed by lunch back at the house, playing at the schools play ground (the school had a slide for a fire escape which was fascinating for me) and sparklers, snakes and bottle rockets back at the house until sundown. At sundown we went to park our butts in the grass and watch the fireworks, one year they all caught on fire, the next year (my last there) they had a kid play the national anthem on his electric guitar. Even at 12 years old I felt that was weird.
Moving to Arizona the “America” feel of Independence Day was totally lost. Sure there were fireworks and festivals but it didn’t feel as genuine as it did commercial.Bringing my boys back to South Dakota has opened up all these innocent forms of childhood memories to form and thankfully The Fourth is one of them.
After all that reminiscing… The Belle parade is just lined with people
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My aunts family brings a flatbed trailer for additional seating.

My aunts family brings a flatbed trailer for additional seating.

Willem and I waiting for 10:30 to roll around.

Willem and I waiting for 10:30 to roll around.

Harper watching the Cowboy Band go by.

Harper watching the Cowboy Band go by.

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If there's one thing my Harper loves it's trucks with lights and sirens.

If there’s one thing my Harper loves it’s trucks with lights and sirens.

Clowns aren't scary, they are strange and weird, but not scary.

Clowns aren’t scary, they are strange and weird, but not scary.

waving and yelling for some candy

waving and yelling for some candy

Tips for next year:

Take an umbrella, rain or sun we will need it.

Wear athletic clothing in order to ensure my kids get the best candy (ok I want the candy too).

Take photos of all the “mayors” cars, because all they said was mayor, never a city, so as far as I know Belle has at least 5 mayors.

Take water guns for Harper to shoot at the “wet” floats, plus it’s just good entertainment.