Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

Having pulled in to the driveway quite late, exhausted from our SD trip, with two full cars to unpack, it was hard to muster up the energy to get ready for Easter. Fortunately, the Easter Bunny did all the hard work! And in the morning, kids that fell asleep in their clothes in uncomfortable positions in a cramped car were happy and full of energy as early as would be expected! Love how it looks like the Angry Bird egg that dude is holding is the head to his dragon shirt.
Actually, Baby G slept in. And even when she woke up, I wouldn't really say she was awake. She looked a little dazed and confused.
Our little dragon didn't really remember the drill, but caught on pretty quick and enjoyed finding the eggs that he didn't have to work for at all. For at least the next week, I'd come around a corner and find him happily counting the contents of the plastic eggs. His favorite thing was to open them and announce that they were either jelly beans or M & M's. He actually only ate them without permission once or twice. As far as I know. The older girls enjoyed re-hiding the eggs endlessly. Though it is important to note that whoever was hiding the eggs was required to wear the bunny ears. But that pretty much goes without saying.
Close to a cute shot!

Less close! Baby G was not feeling cooperative and just wanted her mama.
And a big shout out to Nana for making our Easter dresses/skirt! Aren't they darling? I love the fabrics. And the boys' ties from last Easter almost match. Close enough. And fortunately the lobster made it in the family picture. Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Rest of the trip!

So driving from place to place we drove through this pretty cool tunnel. Dude wanted us to keep going through it but it was on to the next thing on our "to do" list. Sadly, quite a few things that we wanted to hit were closed for the season, but as we drove by we noticed that the Reptile Gardens, which had been closed for the season the day before had a big open sign, so we thought, why not?
It was awesome! So glad we stopped! They had a komodo dragon so big it could swallow you whole (and apparently they basically have been known to do that to too-friendly tourists), alligators that had been featured in James Bond movies that were nearly 20 feet long (even behind a glass, that's startling/disturbing/nightmare-inducing), and more snakes than Nana could ever wish to see in her lifetime. Oddly enough, the reptiles were all rather active. There was one small cobra in particular that attacked the glass anytime someone walked by. Like viciously. And repeatedly. J was quite unnerved by that, but dude thought it was hilarious. The workers said that their animals really enjoy putting on a show and always perked up when there were lots of visitors. Who knew reptiles liked to perform? The reptile show itself was fascinating. Do you think the girls, J in particular, look a little nervous here?
J insisted I include a shot of the guy with one of his snakes. They learned lots more about which snakes are poisonous and which aren't than they'll ever need to know in North Dakota. He held all the poisonous ones on a stick. That's one way to tell.

Still nervous. But fascinated.
And afterwards, guess which kid jumped up to pet the snakes first?
Dude still frequently talks about "And I pet two snakes." Actually the way the conversation goes everytime is "I saw da alligator sleeping. And den he opened his mout! Da alligator was asleep and den he opened his teeth! And there were lots of teeth and he was awake and he opened his mout like this at me. And I pet two snakes. I pet da boa consictor and a really long snake. It was really long. And we saw Ruby da parrot and water coming down and lots of snakes. Hiss. Hiss. Hiss. Dey do hiss. Hiss. Hiss. At da Reptile Gardens. Den Ruby da parrot say Aargh, aargh, aargh."
J rather nervously managed to super quickly touch the part of the snake farthest from the head. She's no dummy.
Love this rare, peaceful moment. He loved watching the parrots. Ruby in particular gets talked about but the whole tropical set-up was mesmerizing to both him and Baby G. She kept pointing and screeching at the parrots, who for the most part obligingly screeched back.
And here's another snake they got to pet. Dude ran down from his high perch to join in the action, and J did overome her nerves and actually pet it a few times.
Understandably, Baby G was really into this guy. He kept putting his claw on the glass to match up with her hand. Kept her interest for quite awhile.
J looks a bit more comfortable when the creatures were behind the glass, eh?
Then along with every other person in the northern United States we ran over to Watiki waterpark. We had fun, but it was rather crowded and understaffed and for some reason all the commotion convinced dude he was terrified of water. Took quite a bit of doing, but we got him to warm up and everyone had a good time. The girls would've rode down the big tube slides indefinitely but eventually we had to get out and eat some pizza so we could get on the road back home before too late.
Baby G is ALWAYS okay with stopping to eat.
And as a random fact, did you know that the geographic center of the US is in Belle Fouche, South Dakota? Still haven't totally figured out how that works out but despite it being pitch dark (the state of South Dakota pretty much doesn't believe in street lights. That makes for a really dark drive. No rest stops either) we stopped for a quick picture to prove we've stood on the very spot!
We had SUCH a blast on our trip and look forward to getting back! It's crazy how much there is to do there and we have lots of things still on the to-do list like Bear USA, the Jewel Cave, the Wind Cave, Rushmore Cave with it's zipline ride and interactive 3-D gunslinger ride, gold mines where the kids can pan for gold, Storybook park, Crazy Horse, and on and on. Can't wait!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Dinosaur Park

And in case dude hadn't had enough, we headed over to the historic Dinosaur park in Rapid City. These big concrete guys are actually on the Register of Historic Places, having been constructed in the late 1930's. So they're not the fanciest, highest tech things in the world, but the kids sure had fun climbing on them anyway and enjoying the view from the top of the only hill in Rapid City! 

Good times, great weather, time for ice cream!

On to the main event!

 So turns out that carving 60-feet high presidential faces into the side of a ragged, spectacular mountain is totally breathtaking! It's so amazing and the whole memorial they've built, which wasn't there when Coop visited as a kid, is pretty cool. I could hardly take my eyes off of it, just blown away that they'd actually been able to do that. Learning how they did it (like how he had a smaller model which was still like 12 feet tall that he would go back to and figure out how to change any time they accidentally blew too much rock off and you know, needed to figure out how to make sure Washington still had a nose or something) only made it more impressive). By the end supposedly they had got so good at knowing how to do it, that they could blast it so perfectly they didn't need to come back and carve or touch up anything. With how smooth their faces are, that's just crazy.
Love the flags of all the states. Of course, we had to find Oregon and North Dakota.

And love these two pics of the kids. In the second, dude is like, "all right, not sure why I'm sitting on this wall anymore...what to do next? Hmmm..."
 And of course, there was more sketching to be done. We actually had to stop at a gas station to buy new sketch pads because they'd run out of paper. Love it. Seriously cracks me up how serious they were anytime they whipped those babies out.
 Found North Dakota! That's where we live!
And after quite a bit of work by M and her helpful daddy, M was sworn in as a Jr. Park Ranger (she solemnly swore to protect all the natural resources of the park and something) and awarded her the much-coveted badge. J had chosen not to do the legwork because she wanted to sketch (although I think the real reason was she was being to shy to talk to the park rangers). Actually we all learned quite a bit. They had some fascinating displays and man, sculpting that mountain was pretty insane! They had this station where kids could push down the whatever it's called to blow the dynamite on the mountain with a little screen in front of them that showed an explosion while they did. Dude was terrified of that room and kept talking about the scary people. Finally, after nearly an hour, I figured out that he thought for some crazy reason that the sound of the explosion was actually a bunch of people yelling "ROAR." Not being able to see where the people were hiding was seriously freaking him out. Never could convince him otherwise. When I tried, he got suspicious that they were really tigers and I don't think that helped him feel better so I gave up and we left.
SO worth the trip! We highly recommend it to anyone and hey, if you do come, let us know and we'll come too! Now that we have a Jr. Park Ranger in the family, we can show you around :)
 Next time we hope to see Crazy Horse too!

A Boy's Dream Come True

Around the corner from our hotel was a dinosaur museum, so we thought we'd go take a look before heading out to the main attractions. Little did we know this WAS the main attraction. For dude at least. He was in heaven. For two straight hours, he ran up and down the museum, pointing frantically and alternating between yelling, "Look at dat one!" and "What's dat one called?" He could not hold still. It was awesome. Sadly we didn't get more photos of him because he couldn't really bothered. But it sure warmed our hearts to see him so happy. While I'm working on this post, dude came running up and hasn't stopped yammering in my ear about "we saw a T-Rex and an elephant bird and a mammoth and ... at the binosaur moo-seum." Still exciting just thinking back on it.

 J spent her time sketching the skeletons. Pretty impressive, right?
So did M, although she got distracted by a room full of fancy rocks and gems for the majority of the time. Think I was proud of my budding artists?
 He's almost holding still here :)
 Baby G watched the kids running around and then studied them digging in the dinosaur pit. When we finally let her down she crawled right up and began digging, knowing exactly what she was supposed to do. She was pretty pleased with herself!
Then we headed back up the street to the trains, where they have a museum open seasonally. It wasn't open but we could still walk around some pretty cool trains. So odd that there was still snow on the ground when it was warm enough for t-shirts! Guess that's what happens up in the mountains where the sun doesn't always shine :)

 But why walk around when you can run? Right? The best part was that his dinosaur shoes leave dino tracks in the snow. Pretty awesome.
 More sketching to do of course. The girls were pretty interested in it all (although the highlight for them was getting to pet a cat named Cindy), but for our little boy, what really could've been better than a morning full of dinosaurs and trains?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Heading to Hill City, SD

So for our little spring break (we just get a long weekend) we decided to head down to South Dakota with Nana. Time to see the sights! It turned out to be a long adventurous drive down with lots of potty breaks (Dude had just been potty trained and I couldn't handle putting him back in a diaper) with his potty chair awkwardly positioned on the passenger seat, but somehow we survived with remarkably few accidents. On the way to our hotel in Hill City we decided to drive through the gorgeous Spearfish Canyon and hike up to a waterfall. Did not expect this:
Sadly unprepared for a hike in the snow to a frozen waterfall, we had to content ourselves with running around in the parking lot around the trailhead.
 Felt good to get out and stretch at least!
 And man it was beautiful!! Definitely going to have to come back when we can hike around or maybe in the fall when the leaves are turning colors. That would be incredible.
Dude was basically beside himself finally free of the car seat. It's actually only a 5 hour drive down there. Heaven only knows how they're going to handle the 22 hour drive home this summer!
 Cute girls!
 Giggly G wanted down as well. She'll have to start walking first!
 We jumped back in the car and drove past this entirely frozen lake. Add that to the list of things we've never seen before!
The kids weren't up to anything else by the time we finally got to our hotel (you should have seen their excitement at our hotel room. Seriously these kids don't get out much. They ran around jumping on every bed, sitting in every chair like it was a palace. Baby G was particularly in love with the mirror closet door and dude walked around in circles saying "dis is not our house" in wonder) so we had a yummy dinner and chilled, trying to recharge for all the sight-seeing ahead of us!