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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

the train

we had a great first evening in our cabin.  cozy beds, pool and playground near by and beautifully located in the mountains.  can't ask for much more then that.  since we knew we would get rest and the kids would be up early we decided we could ride the 1880 train before heading to see mt. rushmore.

oh it was a fabulous God nudge to take the early train.  we had the train mostly to ourselves.  the kids had lots of room to move and wiggle and chat and be kids.  the train was beautiful and antique and fun.  it's one of the only steam engines left in the world and all the cars are old antique cars from the 1800's.  the cars are all decorative and fun and old and interesting.

the kids had a great time looking out the windows and moving around {even though they are supposed to be sitting down the whole time}.  we wound through the mountains.  we talked.  we snacked.  we were glad the cows we saw decided to stay off the tracks.  they have sometimes stayed on the tracks for miles ~ or so we heard.

we giggled.  we wiggled. and we giggled some more.  we wandered around the car and tried out most of the seats ~ just to see if they were any different then the other ones.  if the view from that window was different.  if we saw anything else.

 and the views, well my favorite views were the ones of my little ones getting their own views.  little hands on the window ledge.  little faces peering out with little noses pressed against the glass.  little voices commenting on what they saw or wanted or were thinking. little people running from their seat to share a seat with their dad or to sit on his lap.

it was a fun trip and a great morning.  especially when we got off the train and saw the oh so very long line of people waiting to board for the next ride.  yep, early was better for us.  after a little lunch we headed over to see mt. rushmore.  i would love to dedicate a post just to that ~ but the pictures from that adventure all got deleted.  yep, thought they were on the computer.  told pete it was there.  he deleted from the camera to make more room.  they were gone.  ugh! 

it was truly amazing and the sense of grandeur that you feel when you are there is almost instantaneous.  loved the fun little facts we learned about the monument, the presidents, the history.  {loved that they give washington credit for adopting his step children when he married their widowed mother ~ and he's not the only president to adopt just fyi ~ check it out}.  loved how these four men were, in their own eyes, just ordinary men who were placed in extraordinary circumstances and who made extraordinary decisions for our country.  and the kids each got to complete a booklet to earn a junior ranger badge.  those badges were worn with pride and big grins. just overall amazing and humbling ~ the monument, the men and the history.  we are so blessed to be in this country.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

the badlands baby

we had a good night in the wagon ~ eventually ~ once everyone settled in and slept.  in the middle of the night we got to experience a true prairie storm.  more wind then storm but amazingly powerful nonetheless.  it was humbling to think of the people years ago who endured the same kind of storms in very different living conditions.  oh how comfortable we really are ~ and how quickly we forget it ~ how quickly i forget it.
the next morning we loaded some slightly sleepy little ones and headed to the badlands.  we got there mid afternoon and opted for the driving tour instead of lots of hiking ~ tired little legs needed to be considered.  the views were amazing and it still humbles me to think that the God who created the beautiful lake near home, the vast prairies of the night before and the views in front of me created me too.  and He loves me and knows me personally and intimately and wants to be with me.  we did decide to get out of the van and do some of the short loop trails that were available.

tired little legs began to feel the heat.  we talked of rattlesnakes and of the extreme weather.  of trying to cross this land in only the wagon we had slept in the night before.  there was talk of returning to the air-conditioned car and we were so thankful that that was an option for us at the end of this trail. 
we pressed on and continued to look at the things that were around us. the things that were so different from home, from anywhere else.  i have to admit this place does remind me of the little drip castles we build at the beach.  do you know what i'm talking about?  taking wet sand in your hands and letting it drip out and down and form it's own little castle.  perhaps these are God's drip castles, perhaps.
we noticed how dry everything was.  and then quickly felt the need for water ~ which was no where to be found.  and the sun continued and the comments began.  asher, "no wonder they call this place the badlands, it's bad here!".  mia, "why would you want to live here?' {we did talk that no one really lived in the badlands}.

oh how i love their perseverance.  we kept walking and then we found the climbing rock.  it was immediately a favorite thing to climb on and to jump off of.  it was conquered quickly and just as quickly jumped off of.  everyone had a turn and it all ended too quickly.
so after the jumping was ended we searched for some shade.  not as easy as it sounds.  but we did find some and took a little break and try to cool off a little bit.  a little bit.  and we got a little silly!

and through the whole thing my little snuggler rode in peace and simply took in all the sights.  he didn't seem to mind the heat or the sun.  he just chatted and peeked around and took it all in.  mommy was a little hot though ~ but just a little. =)

after the badlands we returned to the air-conditioning and continued on to our cabin in the black hills for the next few nights.  it was an amazing part of our country to see and to let the kids see.  we truly live in an wonderful country with so many diverse landscapes and places and things to see.  truly we are blessed and we truly felt blessed to be back in the comforts of air-conditioning and shade.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

playing pioneer

so we've been gone for a little while.  yep, we packed up the van, loaded up the kids and traveled across the country to visit my brother and his family.  and then got the pleasant addition of my baby brother flying in for the weekend to visit too!  it was amazing, but those details will come.  so let me start you at the beginning as we enjoyed being a family, traveling, and seeing, doing and experiencing all kinds of fun things.

for a little while now mia and i have been reading the little house series.  it was a series i loved when i was young.  the simplicity.  the focus on family.  the love of the Lord.  the being happy right where you are no matter where that is.  so we journeyed to laura's little house on the prairie...and it was amazing!!

we arrived in the morning and we got to see what the claim shanty looked like.  what the house that pa built looked like. and we got to see the dugout where their adventure on the prairie began {well, okay so it was not the actual dugout but trust me it was a dugout and you truly understood how little it was and how simple life was}

the kids got to lie on the beds and realize that the mattresses were truly made out of hay.  to see what the quilts looked like and how thin they were compared to our thick comfy ones.  ma's red checkered table cloth was on the table.  the stove was there.  the house had a pump organ the kids could play on and a sewing machine {without the needle} to explore.

there was a water pump outside where water had to come from.  each of the kids got a turn pumping the well and feeling the cold, clear water that poured forth from their efforts.  the water was so inviting that little sips had to be taken and gulped by all to help with the heat of our prairie day.  and we realized that we are so blessed to be able to simply turn on the water anytime we want it.  how blessed we are that we don't have to walk to a well, to pump the water, to carry it home. {ok, yes, we are going to africa and this will likely be part of our life but running water is still a privilege}  how blessed we really are.
we also got to try our hand at laundry.  yep, hand washing it with the washboard and hanging laundry on the line and old fashioned clothespins and such amazing simplicity. 

then we headed to the barns.  we got to see the calf, the cats, the horses, the ponies.  we were allowed to touch and play on everything.  we could barely get the kids to do anything else for the rest of the day.  they were in heaven running around the barn, playing upstairs and being with the animals. 

eli and daddy tried to lead one of the ponies.  he didn't seem too interested.  so eli opted to ride instead.  this little pony was quite happy to wander around the prairie with eli in tow and nibble on grass.  the animals were so great with the kids.  they were gentle and tolerant and even ethan got a chance to ride and sit and get comfortable and take as long as he wanted.  it was such a wonderful experience for all of them.

the kids got to drive a small cart pulled by the ponies as well.  they loved it.  they took turns and sat patiently waiting while the worker taught them how or drove a little himself.  but the little moments were the best and so happy that we caught some of them. 

the pictures abound from our day and it was hard to pick which ones to put here but i had to include this one from the barns.  it was simply one of my favorites.

after the barns we headed out to the covered wagons and a trip to the school house.  yep, we went to school.  mia got a chance to drive the wagon on our way to school.  yep, the reins were handed over and way she went.  when we got to the school the kids got to dress up a little and listen to the differences between a one-room school house and school today.  mia got to recite some lessons and everyone got a chance to ring the school bell.
asher got a chance to take the reins on the way home.  he loved it and was having a great time "steering" the wagon and truly driving us back to the barns. 

then we got to do some demonstrations including making rope {picture below},  grinding flour the way mary had done in the coffee grinder all that long winter, and making corn husks dolls like laura had since they could not afford any other dolls for her.
to end our night - we all slept in a covered wagon.  oh yes, all six of us in a little covered wagon.  complete with a prairie storm.  not so much rain but plenty of wind.  oh my!  it was an amazing start to our family trip and we all had a wonderful time.  simplicity really is amazing and needs a bigger place in for sure.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

away she grows

oh summer has been fun.  it's been fast.  though i feel like i say that every year. one of the kids' favorite things to do at our new home is climbing the tree in the back corner of the yard.  they will disappear and all you see is the branches swaying and shaking. 

it all began with mia.  she came running in the house while i was making lunch begging me to come outside so she could show me something. so of course lunch waited and out we went.  and this is what i saw.

and as i watched her climb up a little higher each time she traversed that tree i began to think about how big she is.  how that as she continues to climb that tree she's also beginning her climb that will lead her out of our home and into her destiny.  reaching higher and going further with each passing day.  building her skills, trusting herself more, embracing her independence.  i embrace all of this and i am excited for her and yet i marvel at how fast we have gotten here.  how quickly the time has gone. 

she runs around the yard today with her friend and they whisper secrets to each other.  they run squealing from the boys.  they make up their own code language. a language who's primary usage is to tell each other they love one another.  and they giggle and she grows. and she learns more and she needs me less. and yet, she needs me but now it is different.  now it is to acknowledge her steps toward independence and to help her continue to grow in that independence.  to teach her how to be a "grown-up".  and there are precious moments when she still crawls in my lap and snuggles and tells me it's her favorite part of the day.  and then away she grows and away she giggles.