Seeing the Light: China Lights Season Two

I had to share these gorgeous pictures of China Lights, something my family has really enjoyed the past two years.  Here is my post from last year (if you want more pictures)!

Similar to last year, we arrived before sunset with our tickets in hand.  We managed to catch the lights display on the very last day. My first pictures are at twilight, when the sky is a lighter blue.

China Lights Dino, Flower collage Go Mama O.

Dinosaurs, flowers, and hummingbird in the tree

The displays had changed from 2016, and it was still a great variety, though the dinosaurs replacing the beautiful pagoda was a little under-whelming. This was my shote of the pagoda from last year:

china-lights-header

2016 Pagoda – one of the highlights of the exhibit

One of our favorites this year was the panda scene.

China Lights Panda Scene

Huge bamboo forest – so adorable

We also liked walking through the tunnels of the Chinese Zodiac signs.

Chinese zodiac tunnel Go Mama O.

View from the path – walking under Chinese zodiac signs

More beautiful lights: flowers, the regal entry gate, dragon and tunnels.

China Lights Gate collage Go Mama O.

The lights really come alive when it’s really dark! Love the variety.

We liked these little owls too. The colors and detail are so pretty!

Moon, Mama O, Daddy O, Little Bro

Is it a moon or a banana? Big sister took this picture of Daddy & Mama O. and Little Brother.

Though it’s difficult to choose, my favorite animal was the dragon.  It’s one of the largest displays in the entire exhibit, and I love the moon in the picture.

China Lights collage dragon, elephant

Massive dragon, and patterned pachyderm

China Lights is becoming a wonderful family tradition! We hope to enjoy more light displays together through the years. Cheers!

 

 

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Mini Fly on the Wall

Hey there! My Fly on the Wall friends just posted yesterday, but I wasn’t organized to sign-up in advance to participate.  After reading the group’s posts, I thought I would join in with my own post.  Better late than never, right?

For more Fly on the Wall, hop on over to this writing challenge founder’s blog: Baking in a Tornado.

South Dakota Vacation

We ventured to South Dakota during summer, and had an awesome time! It was a great family destination for our 5 and 7 year old kids. Before we went, my 5 year old son asked, “Do they speak English in South Dakota?”

On our drive from Sioux Falls to Desmet, our kids decided to make a honking sound whenever they saw an animal. This continued throughout the entire week. Sigh. Fortunately, there are open fields for long stretches where you don’t see much at all, like this:

Desmet Ingalls Homestead

View of the prairie from the Ingalls Homestead in Desmet, SD.

The drive up to Desmet from Sioux Falls though beautiful, went through a quite rural part of the state.  The population density is quite low in much of South Dakota, so I told Daddy O., “If we ever want to live off the grid, we can move out here!”

When driving past the many farms and lush green fields, my son observed, “I bet that farmer has 5 green thumbs.”

We could almost picture what it must have been like for the first settlers in the 1800’s who arrived here.  The Ingalls Visitor Center consists of the Ingalls homestead, a sod house, shanty, church, barn and one-room classroom. We even rode on a covered wagon and learned about what life was like for the Ingalls family. We were struck by the extreme quiet of the land: no sounds of planes or cars zooming by on nearby roads, simply the sounds of the wind rushing through the prairie grasses. Beautiful.

Wildlife Watching

We were excited to see bison, but just saw a lot of cattle, especially on the eastern part of the state. My daughter explained, “The cows are all black, and the bison are chocolate colored.” Can you tell we like desserts?

bison Custer State Park.jpg

See, they are chocolate colored! Bison at Custer State Park

We drove the wildlife loop road at Custer State Park, and having been in the car for at least an hour, our kids asked, “Can we watch a show (on our portable DVD player)?”

“No!” I said, “Nature is your show. Look out your window!” So many amazing views:

Custer State Park collage.jpg

Top left: a baby burro paid us a visit on the Wildlife Loop, top right: view of the Cathedral Spires, Bottom left: Stockade Lake, bottom right: bison along the road out of Custer State Park

The Black Hills

When we arrived in Rapid City, I said, “Look, kids, the Black Hills. Aren’t they pretty?”

My son’s response, “They look gray.”

black hills view from Mt. Rushmore

View of the Black (gray) Hills from Mt. Rushmore

In Rapid City, we enjoyed an awesome meal and beverages at Firehouse Brewery. We sat in a covered outdoor area (fortunately) and watched a major rain and hail storm come down. The food and beer were delicious – a welcome change from the fast food we had on the trip out to Rapid City.  The company was nice too with everyone getting along, and I remarked to Daddy O., “This feels like a date night, except we have our kids along.”  He replied, “It’s like our marriage is one long date-night.” Awh….

Hitting the Road

I have memories of my own family vacations as a kid, and we would wake up EARLY, maybe around 5am to get a jump on a day of long driving. I have not been able to replicate this timing for my family much to my dismay.

One morning after sleeping in, my daughter said, “Waking up early for me was unsuccessful.”

This happened on most days, and I just had to go with it. Oh well…

Best for Last

I was talking about the errands I ran during the week, talking about the things I picked up at a grocery store in a quick stop.

My son chimed in and said, “Wow, Mom, you work hard.”

“Yes, dear, why yes I do! Thank you!” He got a big hug for saying that!

Hope you all are hearing sweet things like that in your home too!

Have a great day all! Thanks for stopping by.

Now check out more Fly on the Wall posts, starting with Baking in a Tornado.

 

In Loving Memory of Grandma

Last week we said our goodbyes to our last living Grandma. As expected, it was difficult, though memories of many years together helped provide much comfort. I was so very blessed to have had my mom’s parents around to see me graduate from high school, college, get married, and meet my two kids. While Grandpa Mark passed away in 2013 (I wrote about some memories of him), my Grandma lived on to reach age 87.

Grandma can be described as independent, generous, hardworking and kind. I always remember her home full of family socializing around holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays. We often went to classic Wisconsin supper clubs together to enjoy fried chicken and meals served family style.  Grandma was the matriarch of our family, raising three independent, strong daughters while working on their farm for over fifty years.

Grandma and her daughters 1960s

Love this picture from 1960-ish of my mom and aunts snuggling with Grandma. How many selfie’s do we take today with our own kids?

I have so much respect and admiration for all of my grandparents, given how much the world has changed in their long and full lives.

Many Changes in 87 Years

My Grandma was born in 1930. She remembered hobos coming up to their farm house and asking for food. Her mom would always manage to find something to give them, but made them sit outside and eat.

Grandma and her siblings 1930s

My Grandma was the youngest of four, here in the lower right. She is about 4 years old in this picture.

She attended school in a one room schoolhouse through the eighth grade. After that she was needed to work on the farm. I remember her telling me that she would have liked to have gone to school longer and might have even become a teacher. Though she didn’t teach in a classroom, our family will long remember her lessons and values she passed on to all of us.

As she went on to tell my mom, that’s just how things were back in the 1950’s: few women worked outside of the home, unless you were a nurse or a teacher. Women got married, kept up their home, raised children, and in my grandma’s case helped on the farm.  She would drive the tractor and work alongside my grandpa. Running a farm certainly takes a lot of hard work.

My grandma was proud of her daughters, who all went on to work full time and raise their own children.  When my mom had me and my sister (and after we had graduated from college), my grandma commented that her granddaughters “didn’t need a man to provide for them.” So true – how things have changed in 50 years!

The Original Girl’s Night

Along those lines, my grandma and her friends had their own “girl’s nights” except they took place on Tuesday mornings at the area bowling alley.  There was even a newspaper clipping that showed my grandma leading her team with a score of 186! When she talked to my grandpa about the possibility of bowling on Wednesday mornings too, he told her, “Dorothy, well, I don’t know about all of you women getting together at a bowling alley.” Her response, “Mark, who’s going to pick up a bunch of farmers’ wives at 9 am in the morning?”  She went on to enjoy bowling with her friends two mornings a week.

Grandma & Grandpa

When my grandparents were married in 1950, my grandma moved to grandpa’s farm, where he had led the life of a bachelor for several years.  He only had 1 fork and 1 spoon, and when he made her eggs, he first gave her the spoon. My grandma refused to use the spoon, so he let her have the fork! My grandma just laughed at this memory and would shake her head every time she would retell it. She truly was the one who made their house a home!

As I mentioned earlier, there was always a lot of talking at family gatherings. My grandpa was notorious for his jokes and stories.  I always liked it when he did something to make Grandma say, “MARK!” in her disapproving, scolding tone. Grandpa’s eyes would get really big, he’d raise his shoulders and cross his arms, and say, “I’m in trouble!”

So Many Good Memories

I was so blessed to have shared so many years with Grandma and fondly remember the earlier days when we’d visit their farm.  There was always something to do on the farm: playing with the kitties in the barn, petting the calves and seeing the big cows, climbing around the hay mow, sledding and snowmobiling in winter too. One friend once asked, “Doesn’t everyone have a grandma who owned a farm in Wisconsin?” Yes, many do! And I certainly loved mine.

While the later years were more difficult as her health declined (farm work is tough on a body), I still enjoyed visiting grandma with my own family. As I put together the photo boards for the visitation and funeral, I especially loved seeing the pictures of Grandma with her great grand kids. She gazed down at them so lovingly, so full of pride.

Grandma and great granddaughter

Grandma and my oldest’s first Christmas. LOVE this picture.

The great grandkids always brought a smile to her face. I have pictures from Mother’s Day this year, ones I took and others that my seven year old daughter took.  My daughter’s picture captured Grandma with a genuine smile much bigger than those in my pictures.

I’m so glad my kids were able to get to know you, and I hope that all of us grandchildren brought you joy and made you proud. Love you always, Grandma.

 

Family Vacation Pictures: The Good, the Bad, and Mostly Silly

Hi ya! I was scrolling through some pictures from our road trip out to Washington D.C., and I couldn’t help but make some collages of our many attempts to get a nice family picture. It was a beautiful spring day on the Mall. While we missed the main cherry blossoms, it was still a lovely temperature, which was much, much nicer than the spring we’ve been having in Wisconsin. My kids were having more fun being silly for pictures I was trying to take to mark the occasion: their first trip to D.C.

Here’s what I could capture:

Go Mama O. family vacation silly pics 2017

Top: Goofy faces in from of the Washington Memorial, and cuddling her water bottle at the Lincoln Memorial. Bottom: On the road! Daddy O. isn’t so sure about this trip in this picture (ha ha). 

Go Mama O family vacation 2017.png

More family picture attempts that day. That’s my annoyed face in the lower right.

The one on the top left is one of the last pictures of the day. We quick grabbed some ice cream and shakes from an ice cream truck because it was hot and we were all tired from a day of walking.  If my son had worn sunglasses, it might be almost passable.  At least we are all in the picture, unlike the one at the Lincoln Memorial, where my son is hiding behind Daddy O. (riding on his back). I also like the one on the top right, where my daughter looks confused and my son is sort of winking.

At any rate, these collages are fun.  Much like any family vacation in its entirety, they are not perfect by any means. There are good times, bad times, and down right ugly times as kids (and adults) get tired, impatient, and sick of being in the car for so long. We were silly. We did laugh and have fun, and we did it all together, making memories along the way.  These pictures are reminders of all that!

Cheers to family pictures of all kinds!

More stories about our trip will be coming.