Family Vacation 2018: South Dakota

After our time in Omaha, we headed off to phase two of our summer travels – a few days in South Dakota! Since we don’t live near any of our extended families, most of our trips have been focused on traveling to see them, but especially as our kids get older, we want to make it a priority to show them more of the world, as well. We thought that with the ages of our kids, a trip out to South Dakota could be a good fit – some tourist attractions and opportunities to learn about nature and history but no long days in museums (which would be heavenly for Matt and me and much less so for our children!), and it was close enough that we wouldn’t have to drive forever to get there.

We left Omaha on Saturday morning and drove out to Wall, South Dakota, where we were joined by my mom and brother David – it was so nice to get some time with them on this trip, too! After a night in the hotel, we got up and visited Wall Drug the next morning. The kids actually did a great job of browsing and enjoying the experience without asking for 50,000 toys, and at the end we let them each choose one item that we’d buy for them.

Then that afternoon we drove through the Badlands, which were beautiful beyond what I can describe.

Had I realized we’d be able to get out of the car and climb around, I would have put everyone in shoes other than flip flops! It worked out alright, though 🙂

For the rest of our time in South Dakota, we’d arranged to stay at an AirBnB, which, we’ve discovered, is really what makes vacations work for our family. Spending days at a time in a standard hotel room is too overwhelming, but having more space and being able to prepare our own meals makes everything so much more manageable.

The morning of our first day on the western edge of South Dakota was spent at its most well-known attraction – Mount Rushmore! The big kids and I will be starting to learn about American history this year, and this was a great introduction, giving us an opportunity to talk about some of the presidents and a bit about the history of our country.

Knowing that we were heading into some red states and that we already stand out as a multiracial family with a child who sometimes uses a wheelchair, I intentionally did not pack any of the kids’ and my political t-shirts. I hoped we’d be at least a tiny bit inconspicuous. Miranda does not share that desire, and she and I had the following exchange while at Mount Rushmore:

Me: “Why do you think that they chose those four presidents to be on the mountain?”
Miranda: “Umm, because they thought they were good ones?”
Me: “Yeah, I think you’re right.”
Miranda, loudly: “Well, they won’t be putting Donald Trump up there, that’s for sure!”

We’re hoping the rest of the country comes to its senses and joins her in that opinion soon, as well.

We went from Mount Rushmore to Crazy Horse, which Matt had seen about 30 years ago but which the rest of us had never visited. It was fascinating to hear about its history and construction and the plans for its completion and to compare and contrast it to Mount Rushmore. There was a bus tour that allowed us to get close to the monument itself, and we were so glad we took advantage of that opportunity. The bus driver doubled as a tour guide and gave us more information and stories about Crazy Horse and its construction, and it was great to see a closer view of what was actually happening. Seeing a monument of this size being financed privately and in conjunction with efforts to support Native Americans was so impressive.

The next day we drove out to Wyoming to see Devil’s Tower, something to which Matt had been looking forward for quite some time! The kids really loved it, too. Miranda and Atticus are enthusiastic climbers, and Miranda talked a lot about coming back to climb it someday (we saw several climbers while we were there!), and she enjoyed any opportunity to climb on the boulders around the path we walked around the landmark…and I spent much of my day trying to keep Atticus safe while he attempted to follow her!

The following day I got up early drove out to Rapid City (everything is so spread out in South Dakota!) to meet a friend for breakfast, one of my co-moderators in the Facebook parenting group I help to moderate. It was a joy to sit down with someone who just gets it, who parents a child who has lived through trauma and who subscribes to the same parenting philosophy Matt and I use in interacting with our kids. It was so nice to meet her and spend a few hours together!

Our van’s brakes had been grinding, and it was in desperate need of an oil change, so after my breakfast date, I called around to local repair shops and sat around for a couple hours while our brake pads were replaced and oil changed – not super exciting but necessary. I didn’t get back to the rest of the family until around 2:00, which limited our afternoon options, but Matt and David researched some choices, and we ended up taking a scenic drive and getting out and walking around a bit. South Dakota is so beautiful!

The next day it was time to head out, so we packed ourselves up and started the long drive back home. We had one more attraction to see along the way – the Corn Palace!

And then after an overnight stop in Omaha on the way back, we made it home 🙂 Overall, it was a great family vacation time. There was some drama, but overall, the kids did really well with the driving time, and we really enjoyed our time as a family in South Dakota. It was so nice to have my mom and David there, too. The kids love hanging out with them, and though our night time adult hangouts were shorter than we would have liked, it was good to get even those little bits of time. We got to enjoy experiencing a new place together and talking about our country and its history. All in all, I’d say it was a successful vacation!

Throwback Thursday: Wedding Trip Part One

When we committed to pursuing adopting our 4th baby this year, we knew we’d need to be especially frugal in the coming months, which meant no huge, adventurous travels this year, but we also knew we’d definitely be heading east for my brother’s wedding in May. I never actually got the chance to blog about that trip, so I’m coming back to share about it now! In addition to keeping our friends and family updated on our lives, serving as a place to share my contemplations, and offering a window into our lives for others who may be interested in adoption or home-schooling or special needs parenting, this blog also serves as a journal of sorts for our family, so I try to document our adventures, even if I don’t get to all of them right away!

Our family of introverts sometimes has a hard time being in enclosed spaces with any number of people for any length of time, so it wasn’t long before this set-up arose in the car 🙂

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In general we have a good time, though 🙂 And we made it to Louisville on our first day and spent the evening hanging out with our friends Luke and Ann and their kiddos.

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We don’t get to see Luke and Ann often, but we are always blessed by the time we do get to spend with them. We so appreciate those friendships that feel like a taste of true home – you can pick up where you left off and enjoy laughter and fun and deep conversations all at once, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen each other.

We then took two days to drive from Louisville to the east coast. In the past, our strategy has generally been to drive as much as possible each day, but this was our first trip after Matt’s heart attack in New York, and we both were a little nervous and felt the need to make it as low-stress as possible. For Matt that mostly meant not having to get up super early or rush out the door in the mornings and drive late into the night to make it to our destinations, so we planned much shorter drives for each day on this trip. We were able to stop and have lunch with one of our friends from Matt’s grad school days one day, and we found a reasonably priced hotel midway between Louisville and Virginia and spent the night there and let our kids enjoy the pool and the access to cable tv!

Then we made a slight detour and spent a couple days with my best friend from high school, Jessie, and her family. We were going to be pretty close to where she lived, and I hadn’t seen her in years, and we hadn’t met each other’s youngest kiddos, so it was really great to get to spend some time with her and her family! On top of that, she agreed to embark upon an adventure to see the ocean with us 🙂 The girls, especially Miranda, have been asking for a couple years now when they’d get to see the ocean, and it seemed a shame to be so close without making time for it, so we all piled into the van and drove out to Virginia Beach one day. It was cold and fiercely windy and even rained on us a bit, but it was also glorious!

Miranda especially could not have loved it more.

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She’s like her mama in that way. I don’t think there’s anywhere on earth that I experience the majesty of God like I do standing on the shore of the ocean. The immensity of the expanse of the water, the power of it all – it’s sublime. I don’t really have the words for it, but it’s always a powerful experience for me to visit the ocean.

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It was great to get to experience that with my kiddos!

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(Yes, this is the best picture we got of the 4 of us – I mentioned the wind, right!?!)

The kiddos loved playing in the sand, and there was an amazing playground on the beach where we enjoyed playing and ate our lunches.

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Then we headed back to Jessie’s house for the evening, and the next morning we were off, on our way to Luray, Virginia for Danny’s and Sharon’s wedding!