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.

 

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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.

Life Lessons from Camping in the Rain

We spent the weekend camping as a family, and most of the time it rained except for small breaks on Saturday and all day Sunday, when we were packing up to leave. As one can expect, the weekend had some highs and lows, but all in all I’d still call it a good one. When I thought about it, there definitely were some life lessons that could be gleaned from camping in the rain:

  1. Life’s Messy – you’re GOING to get dirty, especially at a muddy campsite that has soaked up rain for 15 hours! We have this screened in entry way into our tent, and it just had puddle and mud from our shoes all over. I kept trying to wipe a bit up with towels, but just had accept that it was going to stay dirty until it could dry out. Fortunately everything DID get cleaned up, multiple loads of laundry later. So go ahead and accept the dirt! There will always be a load of laundry to do.
  2. You’re not in control – This is a big one for me, as someone who loves to plan. I look at my lists and pack as best as I can for camping, but you certainly cannot plan the weather, as much as we’d like to. We woke up to rain Friday night that continued practically ALL day Saturday. This changed our hiking plans, and so we found a small coffee shop, where we grabbed breakfast, hung out, and later drove to meet my parents for a visit and lunch. We found joy and fun in the unexpected, reminding me to embrace whatever life and weather brings!

    beautiful latte

    When it rains, go enjoy a latte! This one was so pretty & delicious.

  3. Good Things Take Time – Everything takes longer when you’re camping, and in preparing meals, this is so true. Some of our most memorable meals are when we’re camping. This summer we grilled salmon and red potatoes over the fire. We’ve had elaborate breakfasts – omelettes, fried potatoes, bacon & toast over the fire or on our camp stove. Plus there’s nothing like a perfectly toasted marshmallow on a s’more! It’s all so good eating al fresco and well worth the wait!
  4. Unplug – We didn’t really occupy ourselves or our kids with electronics the entire weekend, even with the rain. My daughter and I enjoyed coloring pictures together at the coffee shop and in the tent. Daddy O. and the kids fished in the drizzle. We played games as a family and took a hike when the sun finally came out. We hung out around the fire. It was good, quality time together as a family….and not that we didn’t have our “moments” when the tent became a time-out location because we did. Cram four people into a tent and moments will teeter between harmony and discord. It just happens.

    Mama O and family camping on a sunny day

    One our our first camping trips as a family. We were on a nature hike in this picture and loving the sunny day in the great outdoors!

  5. Appreciation for Non-camping – We came home last night, started unpacking and cleaning up. My shower felt so luxurious compared to the 3 minute shower I took at the campsite. We slept great in our own beds without a 3am wake up and walk outside to the bathroom. I returned home with a thankful heart, feeling blessed for the time with these precious people in such a beautiful setting.

Though we’ve only been camping for the last three summers, I know it’s something that we will continue for years to come because it’s such a valuable, relaxing time to be together as a family. Simply put, it’s good for us all, mind, body, and soul.We always walk away thinking, “Next time we should pack that,” or “let’s try this camping spot next summer,” so we will be at it again with new places to explore and more memories to make together.

5 Lessons from Summer Vacation

The busyness of summer leaves little time to sit back, reflect, and blog! I have been writing blog posts in my head, many of them continue to reside there, never making a debut on GoMamaO.com. Alas, here’s a stolen moment online to share 5 lessons from summer vacation:

  1. You WILL forget something! This goes for something on the way to your destination OR leaving something behind. Check & check to both of these scenarios. When we went camping, we were packed and ready to leave on time. Here’s the expert packing job by Daddy O. below:
    SUV packed up for camping

    All packed up with everything we need for camping…or so we thought.

    One and a half hours into our journey we realized we had forgotten our air mattress and tarp. UGH!  On to Plan B (or #3 below).

  2. Kids will get antsy in the car. No Matter What! Sometimes they even want the thing you forget. On our last road trip, we just brought our portable DVD player, which is a huge hit. The Fox and the Hound and The Fox and the Hound II were new found Disney favorites.
  3. Improvise. Go with the Flow. Since we forgot our air mattress and tarp, we made a stop at Wal-mart before getting to the campsite. We opted NOT to buy a tarp and fortunately were fine without it. As for kids getting antsy in the car, Daddy O. resorted to playing the Star Wars soundtrack that he has on his phone. It really is quite entertaining (thank you to the composer, John Williams!), though my son interrupts every minute or so, asking “Daddy, what’s happening now?”
  4. Bend the rules. Similar to #3, we have to just let go a bit & let the day take us where it may. During camping the kids just have to stay up later because it still is light out, and they want to enjoy the campfire with s’mores. Daddy O. took big sister swimming past her bedtime on a recent hotel stay, and I took both kids for a quick morning swim before starting our day. In all cases, we managed with less sleep and some good naps in the car (myself included)!
  5. Relax and have fun! Sometimes I get frustrated that we are not “on time” or stressed that plans are not unfolding as I had expected, so I have to remind myself to just chill out! Our kids no longer nap, so we can handle doing more on vacation. On our last trip, we had some downtime at the hotel to rest before dinner, and it was just what we needed to re-charge. When we arrived at the restaurant, a bit later than I had hoped, we had to wait about 20 minutes…which wasn’t ideal. Fortunately, we were able to walk around outside and explore the riverfront to make time quickly. We ordered the kids’ meals right away to stave off any hunger induced whining. And Daddy O and I enjoyed a microbrew while we waited for our food…and we did relax & enjoy our family vacation time.

What lessons have you learned from vacation? How do you pack in summer fun & balance it with chill out time at home?

Cheers & happy summer!