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Travels in the Black Hills

November 5, 2017

After we met Nana in South Dakota and had dinner together, we drove to see Mount Rushmore all lit up at night.  A few other people had the same idea, but we almost had the place to ourselves.

C with the “sculpture of the sculptor,” Gutzon Borglum.


We went back the next morning to see it in the sunshine.  The weather was gorgeous and it wasn’t crowded at all.  I can’t imagine what it must be like in the summer months.

We bought S his very own National Park Passport and everybody got a stamp in theirs.

3 generations: It was interesting to walk through the museum and see some of the working models of the monument as well as pictures and news articles from its time of construction.

After Mount Rushmore, we drove through the Black Hills towards Deadwood with a picnic lunch stop at Roubaix Lake.

26-37886733186_fccccca3ee_oOh look, Little A was on this trip!27-37886730826_0e70f31a27_o

22-37939885381_985c7e2b12_oDad found out that the baby will eat your nose if you get too close.
24-37939870821_1e91d119ac_oOne of many shots of C and D trying to get a jumping picture.  How do people do that? (And why do people always do that?)25-37886735586_861ed0e1de_o

It was great to get out in the fresh air among the pine trees for a while.

Then we drove up through Deadwood, which is very similar to Park City (old mining town but with casinos), then wound our way back into Wyoming towards Devil’s Tower.  We never did get around to watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind with the boys before we went, but did after we got home.  I don’t think they were that impressed by the movie, but it was fun to see where we’d just been.

Here’s the first view of the monument from the road:

39-IMG_0534Getting closer:28-devils-tower_37230428794_oFrom the ranger station:29-devils-tower_37886623846_oC was the only one who wanted to do the Junior Ranger badge.  You can print out the booklets at home now to get started on and we should have done that because, due to his age, he had to do all twelve activities in the book . . . and it was 30 minutes away from closing time.  So we all sat around waiting for him to furiously finish up the activities.  But he was able to get his badge just in the nick of time.

Waiting . . .

C being sworn in as a Junior Ranger:

30-devils-tower_37230433954_oWe left Baby S with Nana while we set off to hike around the base of the monument.  They were doing a prescribed burn that day so the trail was only open to the half-way point.
31-devils-tower_37909193882_oOverlooking the valley south from the monument:32-devils-tower_37939796581_o33-devils-tower_37230436944_o40-IMG_0542

As we were leaving, there was a group of climbers preparing to ascend the monument and camp out on the very top for the night.  I can’t even imagine!

Then we made it to Gillette in time for a pizza dinner, spent the night in Casper, and drove all the way home without incident the next day.


Fall break 2017: Road trip!

October 29, 2017

We didn’t have plans for a big summer vacation this year due to having a newborn (not to mention lack of funds from maxing out our out-of-pocket paying for A’s back surgery.)  At least the big boys got to go to Aaronic Priesthood camp for a week in July and then youth conference with Liahona Academy a few weeks ago.  But I’ve been going a little stir crazy from not going anywhere.  I wanted to take some small road trips overnight this summer but they didn’t happen for one reason or another.

One of the place I’ve really been wanting to visit is Martin’s Cove in Wyoming.  We have ancestors who came across the plains with the Mormon pioneer handcart and wagon companies, though none in the Martin and Willie companies who encountered such hardships in their journey.  I thought Martin’s Cove was a lot closer to home, but realized it was a 5 ½ hour drive from us.  Then I realized Mt. Rushmore (where I’ve wanted to go for ages) was 5 ½ hours beyond that, and a plan was hatched!

Having boys at the high school for seminary and choir this year and being tied to the school schedule has really crimped our style.  I love travelling, but not with hordes of summer travellers.  We’ve loved the freedom homeschooling has given us to be able to take off any time we feel like and have had some wonderful vacations at odd times of the year when everyone else is in school.  The boys can miss a few days of school here and there, but we decided to schedule a road trip for fall break, and coincidentally my birthday weekend!

Wednesday before last, after the requisite Walmart trip in Park City (after leaving a lot later than intended for various reasons) we headed for Rawlins, Wyoming.  No one wanted to stop for dinner, they just wanted to get on the road, so we ate snacks in the car and finally stopped at Little America for dinner at 9:00, then on to Rawlins for the night.  Little A woke up in the hotel parking lot, started crying, and promptly threw up on the pavement (luckily not in the car!)

After a good breakfast (what we always look for when booking hotels) we drove up to Martin’s Cove.  There was a power outage when we got there so we went through half of the visitor’s center tour by flashlight.  Another family from Salt Lake joined us.  The missionary was surprised at the increase in visitors from Utah that week.  We said it must be because of fall break and others had our same idea.  After the tour and a short movie, the boys got to pull handcarts through gravel around a short trail.  A was happy to let his brothers have the experience.  He had enough of handcarts  going on Trek last summer.

You can see Devil’s Gate in the background.

  Baby S was an exceptionally good little traveller. 

After the visitor’s center we drove out toward Martin’s Cove.  The land here was later used for ranching and grazing, but never plowed up for crops, so the original trail from the Mormon and Oregon trail pioneers can still be seen.  When little legs are bigger we’ll have to come back to hike out to the actual cove where pioneers and rescuers alike took shelter.


We drove on to Casper and decided to have a picnic lunch next to the North Platte River after crossing it about six times.  After getting whacked by the doors of the suburban a few too many times from the wind as we tried to make sandwiches out of the back of the car, we opted to eat inside the car.14-37886712966_398169a968_o


I’m happy to report that E now wants to be in pictures . . . but his little sister doesn’t.  Here are the five boys by the North Platte,16-24088724638_616965a6d2_o

and one of the few good pictures I got of Little A that I had to take surreptitiously so she wouldn’t scream at me and hide her face.15-37886735266_836db81e2a_o

After our picnic lunch, we headed out across the “wilds of Wyoming” as the boys called it.  A was driving and chose the route that went across National Grasslands.  The boys were not impressed with the scenery, but now we know where to go to see the largest surface coal mine in North America.

Once we hit South Dakota, we drove through Jewel Cave National Monument which we had never heard of before.  We finally got some cell service again so we could look it up.  Apparently it’s the third largest mapped cave system in the world with something like 181 miles of cave.  Another “who knew?” moment.  The boys want to go back, but next time think we should fly to Rapid City and rent a car so we won’t have to drive across Wyoming again.

We met Nana for dinner who had driven from Ohio to meet up with us and follow us home.  Stay tuned for our South Dakota adventures.

5 months old

October 17, 2017

How has it been five months already?  I could look at this little face all day! I’m pretty sure this is the happiest baby I’ve ever had (although he didn’t really want to smile for the camera this day.)  He will give huge gummy grins to anyone who makes eye contact with him.  More than a couple women at church are absolutely smitten with him.  He has the sweetest personality to go along with the smiles.  He has discovered his hands and loves to hold toys now.  It doesn’t last for long though unless I’m also holding them.  He’s also getting more and more interested in the food we’re eating.  I’m not quite ready to start feeding him although the doctor said we could start any time.  (I really dislike the baby food stage so I need to gear myself up for it.)We’re still waiting on nighttime sleep to improve.  Every once in a while he’ll sleep until 5 a.m. which is wonderful!  More often though, he’ll wake up around 3 or 3:30 for a bottle if Dad feels up to it, or to nurse with me.  However, he’s a dream baby when it comes to naps.  I change his diaper, swaddle him up, stick a pacifier in his mouth and rock him for a little bit, and within minutes he’ll go to sleep and stay asleep.  I remember Little A being a terrible napper (45 minutes to get her out, then 15 minutes of sleep.. if that), so this has been such a blessing, especially when we’re in the middle of our homeschool work.  He is truly a joy!  I am so glad he came to our family!

Starting School 2017

September 11, 2017

This was quite possibly the most unprepared I’ve felt at the beginning of a school year (I think I said that last year, too!)  But I’ve been in baby mode for the past four months, and have had a really hard time getting my brain back in school mode.  DH said the beauty of homeschool was that we could start whenever we felt ready, but I said if that were the case, we might not get started until Christmas, so it was best to just go for it now.

For the most part we just continue on with the next level of whatever we used the the year before, so it’s not that hard to start up again.  But I did want to make some changes in a few areas, and it was mostly those changes that were holding me back.  I just had the hardest time finding a quiet opportunity to sit and research and ponder all my options.  I kept telling DH that I just wanted one day off, where all I had to do was feed the baby, and he would take care of everything else in the household, but those plans kept getting thwarted by his work schedule mainly.  (He’s essentially doing three jobs at work, plus his weekend gig, and has only had maybe two days off with no work of any kind anywhere in the past month.)

Somewhere I eked out some quiet time and I think I finally have everything figured out now that we’re two weeks in!  I’ll type up a summary of everything we’re doing soon, but on to the pictures:

I was so amazed that E was perfectly willing and happy to be in the first day pictures this year!   
We use that door to compare their height from year to year, so I figured I better line them up the opposite way too so the littles could be in front of the door.  (I think of them now in terms of bigs and littles, three of each.) Our old house had double sliding doors for everyone to stand in front of, but there’s only a single door here, plus we’re growing in number!  
A, 11th grade
C, 9th grade
D, 7th gradeE, 2nd gradeLittle A, preschoolS, adorable babyWe have a tradition of striped shirts for the first day of school, but I’m about ready to toss it.  It was so hard to find stripes this year.  I thought it was hard to find stripes for the boys, and then I went to the girls’ department.  Everything there was neon colors and graphic designs.  Hardly a stripe to be had. Hardly anything decent without words or pictures on it.  Too much Disney.  Where have all the classic children’s clothes gone?  It was depressing.

So we came home to try amazon.  How hard could it be?  She wanted a pink shirt and I wanted stripes on it.

I’m never shopping online with a 3-year-old again!

She has very definite opinions and nixed just about everything I suggested!  After looking at about 327 different options that weren’t outrageously expensive that we could get shipped in time for school, we ended up with a pink bunny dress with striped pockets.  Next time I’m not asking for her input!

I did tell A that in four years or so I’m going to mail him a striped shirt to wear for the first day of university.  Maybe we’ll keep the tradition going just that long.

Lagoon 2017

August 21, 2017

Poppa and Grandma took us to Lagoon amusement park last week.  We didn’t go last summer, so it was like a whole new experience for Little A.  She was big enough to go on rides this time, big enough to play at Lagoon-a-beach, big enough to throw a screaming fit when we had to leave…

Actually, her first fit was when we were done swimming.  She hadn’t figured out the joy of riding rides yet, and was so heartbroken that we were packing up from swimming.  She got over it though, and caught on quite quickly to the fun of rides with her brother.

First though, the big boys had to ride Rattlesnake Rapids with Daddy and Poppa.  Mommy and Grandma weren’t eager to get soaking wet, plus someone had to watch out for the littles.  We officially have bigs and littles, an equal number of each now, although E is getting more and more grownup by the day and will soon be in an in-between category all by himself.  
Speaking of the bigs, I don’t have too many pictures of them.  We would send them off to wait in super long lines for super short heart-stopping thrill rides while we let E and Little A try out almost every little kid ride there was.  And they’ve added more since we were there two years ago.

I think this was their favorite.  I wish I could have captured Little A’s face when the planes first lifted up. Little A didn’t measure up to the 36-inch line to ride the Jeeps by herself (although she hit the mark on all the other rides), so A was the responsible party who went with her. D on the swings:E on the train (He’s looking so grown up!):and on the boats:Little A had to ride in the pink one of course.  E didn’t want to be her buddy here.On the Red Baron ride:We all rode the train and the merry-go-round, even Baby S, who was surprisingly good-natured throughout the day, and took everything as it came without too much fussing.

This was actually Little A’s fourth attempt at the merry-go-round.  The first time we were the last ones to get on and she couldn’t get an animal that went up and down, so she sat in the swan seat the entire ride.  Then she wanted to ride a horse.  Daddy waited in line with her and again, they were the last ones through and there were no carousel horses left. A third try–same outcome.  I said to DH, “Why don’t you just tell the guy to let you on first the next time around?”  But by that time, Little A wanted to ride the boats again.  After the boats and sensing that our time was getting short, Little A wanted to give it one more try.  I was done nursing S, so I took her and E and they both got carousel horses.  Well, a zebra in her case.  After the ride was through, she told me his name was Marty.  A zebra named Marty–I think she’s watched Madagascar a few too many times.
And that thing on her face?  She was adamant about getting her face painted.  (The boys have never wanted their faces painted; just another one of those differences between them and the girl in the family!)  But did she want a butterfly or a fairy, or something else girly?  No.  She wanted a hawk on her face.

I guess you could call that a hawk.  $10 for the hawk and then she had a drink of water and it smeared the facepaint first thing.  But she was happy, and Daddy was the sucker who paid for it! 

One last photo of C and D before leaving for night (and E having a fit because, “The park is still open, so why do we have to go hoooooooommmmme?)

MTC and ice cream

August 13, 2017

We’ve had a busy week.  Tuesday was S’s 3-month birthday.  He’s sure a cute and very happy baby!  He’s much more aware of the things and especially the people around him.  We are often rewarded with smiles when we pick him up or talk to him.  That same day we had tickets to do a walking tour of the new Missionary Training Center expansion down in Provo. We picked up DH from work and headed south, hitting rush hour traffic.  It was horrible!  It’s been a long time since I’ve had to drive in rush hour on I-15, and I couldn’t believe how bad it was, and it was only a Tuesday!  It seemed like holiday weekend traffic to me.  Once again, we were exceedingly grateful that we moved west rather than south of Salt Lake when we did, or else DH would have had to navigate that traffic out of downtown every single day!

So I thought I had planned plenty of time to get to Provo and go out to dinner before our tour time, but we had to eat very quickly and barely made it on time.  E was excited to ride the shuttle bus up to the MTC:  “We haven’t ridden a bus in forever, Mom!”  (We never ride the bus anywhere, so yeah, it probably has been forever.)

We all had to stand in the aisles and hold on tight except for A who was holding Baby S who was charming everyone at the back of the bus.

It’s hard to believe it’s only two short years until A can go out on a mission.  I’m trying not to think about that too much.

The new building is so beautiful: tons of windows to let in natural light, and beautiful artwork and murals.

S was not a huge fan of the carrier, but he endured it.

No trip to Provo is complete without a stop at the BYU Creamery which makes the best ice cream we know of, hands down!  I had raspberry cream cheese and it was so good!  Apparently Dad doesn’t do group photos, so here are all the kids enjoying their ice cream.

And one more shot of the MTC as we headed for home.

Blessing Day

August 6, 2017

Today was Baby S’s opportunity to (officially) receive a name and a blessing.  The bishopric counselor announced what his name would be, “Unless his father feels inspired to change it…”  DH whispered, “Tempting!”  But no, he was blessed with the names we had picked out, which both have a lot of heritage behind them.  It was a wonderful blessing.

It was a wonderful day.


Since we had afternoon church, we invited family to come over to our house before church for a brunch.  It was a fun change in menu from the lunches and dinners we’ve had after our other baby blessings.  We had egg and potato casseroles with ham, sausage, or veggies, along with fresh fruit, mini muffins, juices, and yogurt/granola/fruit parfaits.

While Little A was getting her pull-up changed and her dress on for church, I did manage one picture of the five boys.  I can’t believe I have five boys!

We then attempted a family picture.  Ha ha ha.  With each new child, it gets exponentially harder to take a good family photo!  And of course there’s always that one kid that you’re just happy if he’ll agree to be in the photo.  Smiles are completely optional!

Poppa was creative in including E in this one!

This is what real life looks like!

It took a good part of the day, but I finally managed a photo of everyone with the baby.

With Grandma and Poppa:

I think this was where he was just tired of getting passed around, or maybe just tired!

3 Generations:

We’re so grateful to have this sweet little soul as a part of our eternal family!

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