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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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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The Jeep Wave

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This summer Chad (finally) sold his not snow worthy truck for a very snow worthy Jeep Wrangler. This new vehicle has been a wonderful toy and tool for exploration for our family. It has taken us on adventures picking wild raspberries, driving through large puddles of cow-shit-smelling water, taking us to sights otherwise unseen and showing us our boys are fearless of swift moving streams.

One of the greatest surprises of owning a Jeep is learning about the “Jeep wave.” This is an obvious form of recognition, a highly visible wave, from any other passing jeep. You could be heading different directions across 6 lanes of traffic and you better believe that Jeep will visibly  acknowledge your shared enthusiasm of driving on unimproved roads, it’s it’s not a finger-lift wave, its a full arm, elbow moving wave. This wave does not pertain to all Jeeps, only those that are actually used for intended fun uses. If you drive a brand new Jeep that is constantly clean and you keep all doors and lids on I’m sorry you will probably not experience the Jeep wave, it is assumed your Jeep does not leave pavement. Do not fret though, because with a simple removal of doors, addition of a little mud and maybe a water can on the back you are automatically welcomed into the club of people who like to have fun driving.

Oh What a World We Live In: Summer Goals

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How gorgeous is this canyon? If we didn’t have small kiddos we would have hiked to the bottom.

For Chad’s birthday I bought him the northern plains map for his GPS because he had been talking about geocaching a lot lately. So on a whim this afternoon we went to find a few. Unfortunately the one we really wanted to find was on the bottom of this beautiful canyon and we could not figure out how to get down there. We still had a nice time getting out but now we have the goal of getting down to the water, finding the geocache and most importantly playing in those beautiful water pools!

We found other geocaches, hiked small mountains (while Willem slept in the car), took our Subaru on it’s first off road adventures and most importantly we all were out together.

Mondays Are My Favorite Days

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I’m slightly excited about the day, not because of something special planned but because I have nothing planned. An empty canvas waiting for its paint. The best thing about days with no plans is that nothing can go wrong you can’t be late when there is nowhere to be.

The greenhouse has been on my mind. My subconscious’ way of telling me to hold out hope, spring is near. It’s my first time in this greenhouse since I was a small child. I used to hate coming here because my mother keep us trailing her for hours going up and down the aisles and losing ourselves in the labyrinth of greenhouses. Today it is warm and the air was a mixture of fertilizer and nectar. There is a koi  pond, one fish as big as my thigh. Harper was taken with the them, Willem snug against me was awed with the red circus trailer and of course, the popcorn. We wander, whispering past seedlings, being sure to not scare them, stunting their growth. We looked at lemon trees (I must go back and get one) and name every garden animal we see “a frog! a pig! a bunny!” We smell, touch and eventually pick out a few to take home. Willem keeps ahold of a small, round petaled succulent in his chubby toddler hands, breaking off only 3 petals before we leave.

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In the car we talk about the seeds we were going to plant, how with care, love and attention they will grow out of the dirt and sprout into flowers. While we talk of flowers blooming from tiny seeds and I contemplate which road to take.

We drive through into the forest, eyes open for big horn sheep, deer, turkeys. We turn corners over the winding river, past our old house, to the T where the road ends and we end up at the lake.

There is no other car in the parking lot. I didn’t expect there to be. I unload the boys and we take off to throw rocks into the lake. A simple thing that brings insurmountable joy to young boys, or rather all boys, I remember my first camping trip with their father, watching him throw rocks off of a cliff. Today the lake is mostly ice and instead of a splash we get only slides.

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Harper leads us down paths and over bridges, we’ve come all this way but we still have no agenda. Willem clings to me, his warm little head bounces between my chin and chest as he struggles between his curiosity to see the world and his stubbornness to touch me, proving to us all that no matter where we are or what we are doing, my attention is always held captive with him.

Returning to the still empty parking lot we take our time eating crackers and bananas in the back of the car, our goodbye ritual to any trail.

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New Park

IMG_1909IMG_1895IMG_1901IMG_1906IMG_1897Harper pestered me for a while to take him to the new park. Living in South Dakota it isn’t always easy to find the right day to go thanks to our variable weather. We had some free time on our last nice day of the winter (it was in the 60’s) so I grabbed a chai and took the plunge. It was talked up in our local media as having modern amenities and I didn’t really see it as first but I left the park impressed.

The park is split into different sections, each section has a theme. The longer we were there the more I noticed little perks the park had, like coffee cup holders on bigger attractions. Everything seemed to spin or twist, all structures allowed for climbing (which is a second favorite of Harpers, jumping is first) and as I noticed these I was drawn to play on them myself. The park was clean, well planned, it even had boring, public durable stair climbers for the adults to use as they watched the kids. The park even had a strange large table with lights which was obviously some sort of adult or bigger kid attraction. Without reading the directions Harper and I found it was basically a very large modern whack-a-mole, it was fun and I could help but think how much fun this park would be for us adults after happy hour.

There are a few downsides: parking. We parked at the civic center, there is also some parking in the downtown area. I chose the civic center because it was free without risk of parking tickets and we didn’t have to cross Omaha St. Omaha is a very busy street that runs along side the park. It’s close to the play area but far enough away that you don’t have to worry about your kids running into traffic as long as you are watching them. If you have a hard time walking a distance then you shouldn’t go to this park. The walk there is further than walking from the back of a WalMart parking lot and you will likely be moving a lot within the play area. You may be able to park closer at the restaurant across the street but I am not sure if the restaurant allows that or not.

All around it is a fun park if you have some energy, unless you have very introverted children that don’t like to run you will probably be fallowing them back and forth through the different parks. This isn’t totally a bad thing though, if you are young at heart you will have no problem being entertained and playing on the equipment yourself.