Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eagle Scout Work: Digging Holes

After waiting nearly two months for the playground equipment to arrive all the parts are now in place, we are finally making progress on the Eagle Scout project.  Of course, before you can install big pieces of metal and steal, you need a base of cement to put them in. At least that's what my husband and son have explained to me.  I, of course, thought it would be like Lego's and you'd just set them on the sand and snap together.

The thought of digging almost 15 holes of various sizes in clay type material was enough to put fear in our eyes, but thankfully through the generous help of a fantastic landscaping company, they are done!  On Thursday evening, a nice guy came with a Bobcat with an auger attachment and, under Mr. C and my husband's gentle guidance and careful measuring, he dug all the holes for us in under 2 hours time. 

I think that the small amount of money it cost to pay for the holes to be professionally dug saved us hundreds of dollars at the chiropractor. 

I told Mr C that this construction job has been a chance to live out his little boy dreams of being up close to trucks, tools, and machinery!  As a toddler, he would point out all the dump trucks, sideloaders, and cranes as we drove around town.  He loved to come across a construction site and quiz his mother with the names of the various trucks and he normally stumped me!

Mr C has gained a lot of knowledge working on this Eagle project that is invaluable; patience, persistance, strong work ethic and how to interact with Adults. Watching him with the landscaper, I was so proud of how confident he is and how mature he's becoming.  He's a long way from the little boy in the back seat of the car yelling out " dump truck", "semi truck", "combine."

Monday, August 29, 2011

Happy 50th Anniversary

My parents celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary on Friday.  It was truly a golden celebration. What a blessing to have such a wonderful example of love, marriage and commitment to watch all these years.  P and I consider it a honor that both sets of parents have been happily married for five decades.  It is a great accomplishment and testament to God's blessings.

It's amazing to think that just the "other day" my parents renewed their vows for their 25th anniversary and I walked down the aisle as my mother's attendant.  I was in college at the time and thought that 25 years was "forever."  At that time, I could hardly imagine being married and not to mention for that long,

In fact, I would walk down that same church aisle on the arm of my father for my own wedding just a few short years later and am now only seven years away from celebrating my own 25th Anniversary. (See honey I do now how long we've been married)

I understand why my Dad said he can hardly believe it's been 50 years and that in his mind he's only in his 60's thus meaning he would have married Mom in his teens!  Time really does fly by too quickly.

Friday night, we celebrated this wonderful milestone with a Family Dinner.  Miss M said it was the nicest restaurant she'd ever been to and probably her best meal ever.  Mr C enjoyed his filet and entertained his cousins with conversations about 401k's and Yacht prices.  Guess you've got to play the part.  Miss A of course was just thrilled to be surrounded by her favorite people, sitting by both cousins L and N, and chatting away.

After dinner and family pictures, we hung out at Nana and Papas and had Wedding Cake.  Sadly, it did not have buttercream frosting on top, but it looked beautiful.  Then of course, there was entertainment which mostly involved the kids doing crazy stunts and making us all smile.  Mr. C unknowingly has mastered the look of a blind man.  Wearing Nana's sunglasses, he strikingly looked the part, and of course being the comedian he is, he quickly grabbed a cup and asked for spare change.

Poor Miss A tried to duplicate the look with some crazy shades, but of course she's too cute and adorable to really pull it off.  Thankfully, cousin A who turned 17 this week, which is even more evidence that time flies, looked fresh in his new Oakley's and showed Mr C how to really look cool!

All in all it was a perfect evening. One of the benefits of surviving 50 years of marriage is getting to have these crazy moments with your children and grandchildren. At least that's what I hope to be reaping when Mr. P and I reach that milestone!

Congrats Mom and Dad on your Golden Anniversary. We love you A & F.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Funny Things I've Hears Lately

The new school year, start of fall activities, and the lack of television watching has added to the crazy thing my children have been saying of late. While I try to encourage my kids to support, build up and encourage one another, they've gotten a few jabs at each other.  Often, they jab without even trying.

Mr C was talking about his freshman football team and how practice was going in the heat.  He mentioned that one player got hurt and is out for the season with a knee injury.  As a result, he's become the team manager.  Miss A in all sincerity spurted out the following: "too bad that wasn't you Mr. C, you'd love to be the team manager."  Ouch!

After a long day of practice (six hours-two a days they call, he calls it torture), Mr C said; "you know this is a lot of work for someone who just wanted to ride the bench, I'm actually getting pretty good at football."

Miss M was a little worried about the summer musical and if she'd remember to speak loud enough, hit her lines exactly, and tell her jokes without stumbling over the punch line.  Mr C with a straight face told her," I've never known you to have trouble talking and talking and talking..."  Gotta love brotherly love.

Miss A needed to change quickly into her soccer uniform after her musical performance on Saturday.  The locations were about as far apart as possible in our small town and we were rushing.  Miss M tells Miss A to strip in the car, just pull your pants down in the car seat, move your little tush around, and I'll get you going into your soccer clothes." No problem she says; I do this all the time." 

I'm hoping she was talking about getting out of dance clothes and not stripping in the car!

Miss A is loving first grade and leaves each day with a smile on her face, but she's missing home a little too.  Monday morning she told me, "I miss spending time with you when I'm at school all day; we had some great times together you and me.  I miss my Barbies too, but I miss you more."

Glad to know I rank above the Barbies.  I'm thinking its a close second however.

Finally, the best line of the week belongs to my husband.  On Sunday when our family was doing Step Out (a day of service to the community that a bunch of churches do), we were weeding a garden when Mr. C found a garter snake.  I screamed.  He then proceeded to chase me around the garden with the snake in his hand.  I ran faster thankfully.

I told my husband that I couldn't believe Mr. C would be so mean to his mother. P in all seriousness said, "Oh Jill it was just a snake!"  He had a big grin on his face. 

Really honey!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Ultimate Superstar : Girls Shine in Summer Musical

As a capstone to a fabulous summer, the girls had their Summer Musical performance this weekend.  Both Miss M and Miss A had a part in our dance studio's Christian Musical; the Ultimate Superstar where M served as the Talent Show Host and one of it's acts, the Country Girl Comedian, while Miss A was a Ribbon Dancer.

Saturday morning, the show went to the local homeless shelter to perform for the moms and kids. Sadly, there wasn't a great number in the audience, but like Miss A said, "they were performing for an audience in heaven and He showed up."  Plus, it was a great way to get the kinks worked out of the performance before the family and friends version. 

Sunday evening was the main performance for the parents and both girls were super excited. The show included dinner (which of course means that Mr C came along).  I think that Mr C went back for thirds.  I assume that was from all the hard work he'd put in that afternoon at our church service project day! Trimming trees and pulling weeds makes for a hungry boy!

The performance was perfect. Miss M really does a great job acting in front of a crowd and her Texas accent wasn't too bad either. Of course, her jokes were a little "cheeky," but I think that was the idea.  Miss A loved their ribbon dance and she just looked so happy twirling around on stage.  Really, is there anything better than seeing your kids shine in their element and glorify God with all their hearts?

The Dance teachers have been doing the summer musical for four years.  Each year, I am amazed at how professional and entertaining the show is, but even more so how it always draws you back to God and using your talents to bring Him glory.  What a gift and blessing this musical is to our girls and our community.

Miss A, of course, thinks now maybe she should add Dance back into her schedule (she says it every year after the performance), but we're concentrating on soccer and basketball this year.  Who knows maybe Miss M will get her sister to join her at the Studio soon.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Friday Night Lights:Mr C's Debut

It's a whole new world. Last Friday night was the first of our adventure into Friday Night Lights, the high school version of football.  Mr C took his first ever steps onto the field to play Wide Receiver in the Black vs Red Scrimmage. I think #8 looks pretty snazzy in his uniform.  I mean tough, rough, and ready for the gridiron of course.

At the Football Parent Meeting and Team Introduction, I started to feel a little more comfortable with the whole football experience. The Head Coach shared his vision for the team, philosophy on how football should be played, and told us his goals.  He also explained that, while the Knight have not exactly had a winning season in a while (3-15 the last two years), he loves the spirit of the team. He loves that the boys are spending so much time in the weight room. That's where the winning begins.

We didn't send Mr C to this school to make him into a football star; but to turn out a well rounded young man. The coach praised the freshman boys on their strong start.  He said they show great promise to build this team going forward.  Watching each player introduce themselves and give their positions and church affiliation, I got a little lump in my throat.  It's going to be exciting to watch Mr C progress into a football player.

My husband commented that he never dreamt that we'd be spending our Friday night (OK really Thursday afternoons-since he's on the freshman and JV reserve teams) watching our son take the football field in a high school uniform.  I didn't either, but I think if I can pray enough, trust enough, and believe in my son and his coach enough, I might just enjoy it.

In all honesty, I wasn't too disappointed that the scrimmage got called early due to lightning.  Of course, according to Mr. C, it not only meant he didn't have to play on the defensive side of the ball, but it also meant that the freshman beat the sophomores 7 to 0.  Go Knights!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

We Survived the First Week of School

We made it through the first week of school and, all in all, we did pretty well.  Of course, the full impact of our fall activity schedule hasn't started yet so I'm sure there are some rough days ahead trying to figure out how to get people to the right place.  But we'll make it.

I could be all nostalgic on how I can't believe my first born child is a freshman in high school, but attending his first ever high school football scrimmage proves that it's the truth.  Not to mention the fact that in the last few days he's done  more homework than he did in the previous eight years of school combined.  He loves it and in so many ways our expectations have been exceeded with the choice of school.

At the opening Mass/Family Picnic last Sunday, I knew when we sang the Chris Tomlin song "You are the God of this City" that God has placed Mr C at this school for a reason!  I can really see him thriving in this environment academically, spiritually, and socially.  Plus, according to my husband, he's gotten a ton of muscle mass from football conditioning! 

Miss M is now in sixth grade and, while there are still a few kinks in her schedule that we need to fix, she is taking everything in stride.  The academic advisor really complemented her when he said that Miss M has a reputation of staying out of the muck of girl drama.  While she might dump on us at home (which is what she should do), she always has a positive attitude in the classroom.

Miss M is most excited that after a few years off of competitive dance she's joined the team again. She'll be dancing twice a week and is thrilled to get to go on a trip this spring to her favorite town of Chicago.  This girl just loves to dance and act.  We just love to watch her use her God given talents.

Miss A loves the first grade.  According to her, it's a lot like kindergarten. It is just a different teacher and schedule.  The biggest change is how they do lunch.  I'd explain what the change is, but I'm still not sure I understand.  She has some great friends in the class and has made a few new buddies as well.  We are thrilled that she has our favorite first grade teacher ever and the same one as C and M. 
The biggest complaint Miss A has about school thus far is that it interferes with her Barbie playing time.  Every morning, she plays Barbies for a little bit before school and then within minutes of eating her after school snack is back in her room busy with her imagination.  Last Wednesday, I walked into her room and saw a lineup of Barbies (and a few Ken and Skippers) all facing her Barbie Townhouse.  When I asked what was going on with the Barbies she explained it was a Drive In Movie Theater.  A double feature.  The next day, however, they were all gone and in their place was the Barbie Airplane, Convertible and Bicycle.  Guess they were off on a road trip.
First Week over and out.  Let the Fun Begin.
(* You'll notice I have pictures of C and M's first day of kindergarten too, Miss A's extra picture is of her first year in preschool; age 4.  I love how Mr. C looks almost the exact same in Kindergarten and then now freshman year of high school.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Next Time I'm Wearing a Hard Hat and Other Lessons

It's very quiet in the house today.  School has started for everyone and its seems as if its all going well.  I have pictures to document the new year and funny stories to share, but its just the first day for Mr. C so I'm waiting until I get the scoop first.  Miss A and Miss M have already two days under their belt and according to A the school year is just flying by.  You'll just have to wait.

First, I've learned a few lessons over the summer I thought I would share. List form is always best I've decided for lessons.  It takes me back to my college days and meticulous note taking from lectures.  Don't get me started.

1.  I might want to wear a Hard Hat when I mow the lawn.  Today was a little like Hitchcock's The Birds movie in my backyard.  A barn swallow (think HUGE bird or maybe not) was dive bombing me.  At least that's what is seemed like.  He wanted the fresh "bugs," but he kept coming in so close to my head I had to duck.   Then he decided to bring along four friends. It was a dive bombing party.  I was not a happy guest.

2. A few weeks ago while mowing I almost gave my neighbor a heart attack I screamed so loud!  A huge rabbit ran across my shoes as it escaped from behind the air conditioner.  My neighbor came running to see if I've run over my foot with the mower!  No, I'm just afraid of small little "rodent like animals."

3.  Mr C learned to mow the lawn this summer, but that might be a slight exaggeration.  He mowed at least six rows of the lawn; all flat, in the open areas and only on cool days.  His excuse for not doing more; football conditioning every day, two weeks of camp and of course the need to chill.  Next summer, it's all yours buddy.  There will be no more coddling from your mother.

4.  I've decided that mowing the lawn is really good for your skin.  It's like a little pore cleansing session every time.  You sweat out all the bad stuff, shower off the dead layer of skin, and you even get a great farmers tan.  I'm not sure it's good exercise as I can only run so fast behind the mower and the hills I push it up aren't really that steep, but on really humid days you feel like you've run a marathon.

5.  Finally, I really meant to have my lawn mowed for back to school pictures, but life just got in the way and I didn't want to waste the last precious moments of summer mowing.  I'd rather be running around like crazy to Target, haircuts, football practice and the lake.  I have my priorities in order plus my front porch plants are dead anyway so I'll be photo shopping the pictures to make it look like I'm a good gardener and lawn care person.

Who says you can't learn things over summer vacation. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back to School With A Purpose:(In)Spired Deals

Mr C is just days away from the beginning of his freshman year of high school at an all boy Christian school.   While it does not seem possible that we are entering a new phase of life with a high schooler, what is even more amazing is the young man we are sending on this path.  A young man who is not ashamed of the gospel.

We are a public school family and, while it's been frustrating at times to have to "work" with the system to find ways to share our faith, its always been our goal as a family to be "salt and light" at our schools.  Mr C has been active in FCA, See You at the Pole and has never been one to hide his faith at school.  Let's be honest, this boy has worn a bright orange (think neon) T-Shirt with the words "Jesus Christ Saves Me"to school. 

When I was given a chance to try out Dayspring's newest line of Back to School notebooks, folders and binders I figured its something we'd end up giving away to friends.  We'd use it to witness to others, knowing it would not only be top notch stuff, but would have messages that would encourage others to seek Christ first.

However, when the Dayspring Box arrived, it was barely out of the box when Mr. C claimed it as his own.  He really wanted to use the binders and notebooks himself.  Not only did he love the design, black and red (his school's colors), the message really spoke to him.  "This Message is Illegal in 53 Countries"  because not only does he appreciate the fact that he lives in a country that he's allowed to live his faith out loud without fear, he loves the fact that after a decade of being in the public school system he now has the chance to impact a school that acknowledges God and shares his faith in Christ.

I love the fact that even though his mission field has changed, he's still wants to be a missionary.  Having these fabulous notebooks and binders will be the opening for him to talk to others about his faith.  Because you know what, even though he's going to a Christian school, doesn't mean everyone has a personal relationship with Jesus.  Going to a school that professes faith doesn't make you a Christian!

Thank you Dayspring for giving Mr C the tools he needs to go Back to School with a Purpose!  If you are looking for some fabulous "mission tools" for this coming school year look no further than
 (In)spired Deals.  Great Message. Great Quality. Great Price.  Fabulous all the way around!

Check out the entire Dayspring Collection to see all the other Back to School with A Purpose supplies, and the (In) Courage Blog!
Full Disclosure:  For my review Dayspring sent me the "This Message is Illegal" back to school packet.  All opinions are my own and Mr C's.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Trip Down Memory Lane

upper left:  My great grandmother, brother and me at cousins wedding.  Middle: Aunt Liz; upper right My Dad, brother and me-love the clothes;  Middle left:  Aunt Liz and Uncle Keith in 1975; Bottom left: My parents and brother; Bottom Right: Uncle Keith and Aunt Liz.

Last week, I made a quick trip to Minnesota for the funeral of my great aunt.  That might seem like a very distant relative, but in many ways my Aunt Liz was more like my mother's sister (Nana is an only child) since there was only twelve years between them.  I joined my parents and my brother for the trip which brought back memories of many trips before.

My Aunt Liz and Uncle Keith lived in a beautiful lake house in a small Minnesota town.  For most of my childhood, my family would spend a week of our summer vacationing at their home. We'd swim, boat and water ski and we became great friends with the neighborhood children.  The memories I hold in my heart from these trips are among my best ever. I'm sure that's why I love passing on my love of the water with my own kids at our family lake house.  It's my way of sharing this wonderful legacy.

Aunt Liz had a fabulous library in her house.  It was filled with books and I loved going into the room just to soak up the smell of books.  I'm sure a part of the reason I love to read so much is because of how cool it was to sit on comfy couch surrounded by Nancy Drew, the Hardy boys, and tons of great books!  It was always so much fun to talk books with Aunt Liz, and she never failed to ask me what I was reading.

Because my cousins were all a few years older than I was, a number of my memories of visits to Minnesota also involve a fun wedding with lots of dancing.  When my family went to a wedding last spring for my cousins' daughter, I was able to share this love of wedding dances with my own kids too.  Miss A still counts that as one of her favorite trips ever.

Aunt Liz was the only person in my life that call me JillBaby and you know I never minded.  It was term of endearment and I knew it.  My brother had a nickname too, but I know better than share it with the general public.  He might kill me.  Coming from a very small family, it's been a great joy to have Uncle Keith and Aunt Liz's family as a part of ours. I'm so happy that my kids have Christmas Stockings made by Liz's hands, that my kids have become friends with Liz's grandchildren and enjoyed hours together at both our lake house and at Mall of America.

My heart is sad that I've said goodbye to a wonderful Aunt and that my mother has lost one of her best friends. But I know with all my heart that this is not the end of the story.  First and foremost, I will see my Aunt and Uncle again in heaven some day. I'm thrilled that they are there walking streets of gold together after almost 12 years apart.  I'm rejoicing that they are seeing my cousin Leigh Ann again who died seven years ago from Breast Cancer. 

I also know that the relationship between the cousins has become even more vital.  My brother and I have the responsibility and the privilege of carrying our family bond into the next generation.  What a blessing that my cousins are such great people, it's not a burden.  This loss also reminds me that life is fragile and that I must take every opportunity to show those I love how much I love them.
I'll miss you so much Aunt Liz, can't wait to see you again!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Off the Knitting Needles: Basketweave Blanket

I've finally finished my Basketweave Blanket.  I started knitting this blanket back in February and while I was making great progress this winter it became the project, I kept putting on the back burner. I made numerous washcloths for gifts, a baby blanket for Mikey, and a few other projects too.

Considering it was a project I was making for myself, I wasn't in a real rush.  I loved the yarn I used, the pattern is easy, and makes for a beautiful completed project.  I think this is a pattern I will use again and, while my own blanket is full of mistakes, I think it's something I could do mistake free for a gift. 

I finished the project by blocking.  It is the same exact process I used for the baby blanket.  Because there was a sizable border on the blanket, there wasn't much rolling on the sides, but I loved the soft finished feel of the blanket after it had been washed and laid flat.

I'm making progress in my knitting.  I still have a long way to go before I tackle those complicated patterns and multiple needles but I'm happy that now I have a "go to" pattern.  Who knows, maybe you'll be seeing a blanket in this pattern soon for a future wedding I'm invited to?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

He Needs a Better Story

Miss A's birthday party went off without a hitch until the last fifteen minutes.  The girls had been playing in Miss A's room for awhile and it was now time for the Pinata.  In all our years of Pinatas, we've always used the old fashion baseball bat to "hit it to death" and, normally without fail, we've had to call in reinforcements (older siblings, cousins, dad) to get it to finally fall and give up its candy.

This year, A's favorite Pinata was one with ribbons that you pull until the candy dumps.  Perfect.  No bats, and the girls would all get a chance to make the pinata open.

P decided that since the grass was little damp, and muggy we would not hang the Pinata from the swing set, but he'd just hold it from a broomstick.  Great plan.  You would think so.

It was going great; three girls including Miss A had pulled the string, and then the broom handle lost its "handle" and flew up and hit P in the lip.  Within seconds there was blood everywhere.  Seven little girls just stood in shock as the Pinata Guy went into the house with a busted lip.  Thankfully, one of Miss A's friends' Mom had arrived early and was able to keep the party going while I nursed the patient.

It was obvious within a few minutes that Mr P was going to need stitches.  As Miss M said, there was a lot of blood and no end in sight.  Thankfully, our great neighbors agreed to take P to the doctor while I wrapped up the party. 

To add to the comedy, I had sent P to the office where our primary doctor worked thinking there was an urgent care office there as well, but there wasn't.  So on a Friday afternoon at nearly five o'clock, P walked into the our primary care physician's office with a bleeding lip, a story about a Pinata gone wrong, and walked out with two stitches and a tetanus shot.

I think P made a number of nurses, office staff, and a Doctors' weekend. He gave them a real story to tell and found Monday when he called for the follow up appointment that they all had.  Of course, they were sure to point out to him that they did not use his name.  HIPPA violation you know.  By the time the girls and I arrived at the office, the receptionist asked if I was Mr. Pinata's wife!!

Poor guy he looked like he'd been in a big fight. No one knew it was Pinata that put up the fight.  I'm starting to think that there is a connection between Miss A, Candy, and the ER.  I think that next year we are just going to throw the candy out on the lawn and let the kids run for it!

The Birthday Party Extravaganza

Miss A celebrated her seventh with a Crafting Party at the nearby Michaels' Craft Store.  It was a perfect way to have some fun without having to deal with the mess at home.  Miss A picked out a wooden jewelry box for the girls to paint and bedazzle along with a slap bracelet they could decorate.

Miss A has the nicest little girl friends.  They all get along so well, and while a couple of her friends couldn't make the party due to end of summer vacation plans, it was fun to see all the girls one more time before school starts.  Their biggest topic of conversation of course was who would be in whose class and how would 1st grade be different than kindergarten.  There was even talk of the dreaded homework.

I loved how the girls all used their artistic skills to create adorable little boxes.  They even got to be creative with decorating their cupcakes.  Lets just say there was a lot of frosting on top!

After we finished all our creative endeavors, Miss A opened her presents and then we headed home to for a little playtime and the pinata.  I'd love to show you some pictures from this part of the party, but that is a story in its own! Let's just say the girls had a great time, but poor Dad has a story to tell.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Vacation Wrap Up: Sioux Falls

Our final stop on our trip to Laura Ingalls's homeland included a visit to "The Falls" at Sioux Fall and a walk around their downtown. It was a hot and steamy day in South Dakota, but that didn't stop us from traversing over the rocks to enjoy the sounds of the roaring water.

I realize in relation to Niagara Falls this is a tiny little fall with very little water, but for the middle of the Midwest its a great little scenic view.  The Falls Park is clean, accessible, and a wide open space to wander and explore.

Plus, its entirely free.  Even the observation tower that allows you both a great view of the falls and of the city itself is open to the public.  What a treat.

Downtown Sioux Fall or DSF as they call it had some adorable shops, a fun little cafe we had lunch, and a great used bookstore where we found almost all of the Laura Ingalls books for a fraction of the cost.  Miss A and Miss M now own all but Farmer Boy for the low cost of $19.00.  Miss M has already started on reading every book.  Miss A and I have decided that we'll start from the beginning of the series and read the books aloud this fall.

An enjoyable afternoon in Sioux Falls was the perfect wrap up to our trip to South Dakota, plus it was the capstone of our "water tour" as we saw Gavins Dam on the front end of the trip and the Falls on the back end.

Finally, we got to witness the flooding that the Missouri has caused all the rest of the way home.  Amazing.  Entire farms are underwater and on more than one occasion we were driving on the interstate between sand bags and with rushing water just feet away.  Wow! 

We had a fabulous trip, but were thrilled to get back home and make the most of our final days of summer.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Our New Favorite Seven Year Old

We always tell Miss A that she is our favorite six year old in the whole world.  Today, we need to change that.   Miss A is now our favorite seven year old in the whole wide world!  Time really does fly, wish I could invent a way to slow it down.  I don't want to keep them young forever, just want to remember to number my days and enjoy each one. 

Miss A, I hope you know what huge joy you bring to our lives.  You are a little ray of sunshine, a burst of rainbow, and a true blessing from God wrapped up in a little girl.  May you always know how much we love you and treasure you and that God loves you even more.

Happy Birthday to our favorite seven year old!!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Winding Down Our Laura Journey

Our afternoon at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead wouldn't be complete if we didn't have some time with the ponies.  The girls loved their little ride on the buggy.  Miss A thought the pony was adorable.  Miss M too, at least until the baby pony decided to take a little nib on her back.

Miss M was bitten by the baby pony.  Who according to the staff is a little ornery.  Really?  Not only did the pony try to take some of M's skin, we saw it rolling around in Ma's garden and flower bed.  Bad pony!

At our final stop at the homestead, there was a replica of the wagon that Laura, Pa, Ma, Mary and Carrie would have traveled in around South Dakota.  Miss A and Miss M could hardly believe how small it was.  We told them that people would have traveled across the country in something similar filled with all their earthly possessions.  I think they were thankful our form of transportation was roomy, comfortable, and air conditioned (and that we brought a DVD system for movies)

I can't say enough about how much we enjoyed our visit to Laura's Little Town on the Prairie.  We had the best of both worlds; hand on experiences for us to do as a family and a chance to walk in history at the homes and homestead. 

We finished our day with a dip in the community pool and a picnic dinner at the city park!  Miss M even treated the family to ice cream at Dairy Queen using a birthday gift card .  A perfect way to top off our visit to De Smet.  When we laid our heads down that night back at the Heritage House, I think all of us dreamt about being a prairie pioneer.  Well, maybe P had a dream about college football or insurance!

Our trip was almost over, but we still had a fun things on our agenda.

Homestead Experience: Hands on De Smet SD

Our afternoon visit to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead was a complete "hands on" experience.  While our morning was full of Wilder history, our afternoon was an opportunity to try out pioneer life on the prairie and on the same land that Laura's family homesteaded.

But before we headed to the Homestead, we stopped off at one of the "postcard" locations the spot where Pa planted Cottonwood Trees.  Five of Pa's trees still remain. 

The Homestead Site has a replica of the types of homes the Ingalls lived in before building their home on the land.  They had both a sod house built in the side of a hill and dugout.  We decided that we would have wanted both, one for summer heat and the other for winter cold.  The smell in the sod home would have been a little bit too much for me.

At the replica of the Ingalls home, the girls got to try their hand doing Laundry Prairie Style with a wash bucket, plunger and a clothes line.  Miss A said she could have stayed here all day trying to do laundry.  Miss M was in agreement and both girls even came back later in the day to do a few more "loads."  If only I could get them to do the real wash at home.

I'm thinking I might adapt Ma's Weekly Routine at home.  If I can just convince Miss A to do both the ironing and mending, I'll be golden.  Miss M can handle the wash and hanging the shirts on the line.

Next up was our Wagon Ride to the Schoolhouse.  It was a pretty smooth ride thanks to gentle mules and nice wheels.  I think the Ingalls ride into town was a much bumpier one.  The girls got to "drive" the mules on the way home.  They loved holding the reigns and talking to their charges.  What fun.

Our schoolhouse visit, complete with a teacher, was a treat.  Not only did the girls get to dress up in adorable little smocks and bonnets, they sat at desks like Laura and Carrie would have and learned all about the one room schoolhouse and what that meant for a student.  At the end of the "school day," there was even a spelling test which both girls passed.  Miss A had to spell Cat and Miss M spelled Prairie.  She missed the first time due to the prompt that there were a lot of "i's" in the word, just not that many.

After school, it is was time to try our hands at some rope making and corn husk doll creations.  Who knew how much fun it is to make your own rope, poor P even "bleed" a little in the process of making one for Mr. C.  Thankfully, it was already a deep red rope!  Miss A again was fascinated with the machinery and loved shucking the corn cobs. 

Pioneering is fun.  With sundown still a few hours ahead, our fun wasn't over yet.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Houses that Pa Built: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Pa Ingalls was a hard working man.  As we discovered on our journey to De Smet, he not only made a living as train surveyor and farmer, but he also built his family's homes both at the Homestead that they purchased on the edge of town and a nice big home in town in later years.

At our visit to the "in town" home of the Ingalls, you can really see the workmanship of his hands.  Not only did he build a home near the school that Laura and Carrie attended, it was just around the corner from their church and just blocks from Main Street.

Location. Location. Location.  Isn't that the motto of home ownership? Pa got the point.  He also built a home that allowed them to add on as they had the resources.  We saw the upstairs bedrooms that when Pa and Ma got older and needed income, they rented out to boarders and where when they were young, Carrie and Grace wold have slept.

We also got to try our hand at a few things here at back at the visitor center. Miss M  and Miss A got to play a replica fiddle that use to belong to Pa and Miss M played the organ that all the Ingalls girls had played.  At the Discovery Center, we even got to try our hands at Braille using peas and tried writing our names on a tablet with our eyes closed. Not easy.  P discovered that he could sew.  His mother would be so proud. Miss M decided that she likes wearing a bonnet, it keeps out the sun, and Miss A just enjoyed it all.

It was then time to go back to town, eat some lunch, and shop at the Loftus Store.  Homemade Lemonade and Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches at a cafe that doubles as a craft/general store.  If that doesn't say small town America I'm not sure what does.

What a fun morning.

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Homestead: The Historical Tour

I have way too many pictures of our fantastic trip to De Smet, but since this is my way of journaling and scrapbooking these days, I'm going to go ahead and just inundate you with all of them.  By the time I actually get around to putting them in a scrapbook, I'd hate to have forgotten the details.

The first part of our trip down "Ingalls Lane" was in the town of De Smet at the Laura Ingalls Memorial Society.  Here they have the actual Surveyors House that Laura, Pa, Ma, Mary and Carrie lived in that first winter.  It's been moved from the original site, but inside it's intact and contains artifacts from their home.  Because of the age of the home, no photos were allowed.

Amazingly, they considered this little three room home to be spacious.  In fact, they would often have up to 15 guests sleeping on the floor in the winter for days on end.  There really was only the main room with a stove, a small room off the main that had Pa and Ma's bed and a loft with a bed and dresser (real one that Pa made) for the girls.

On the site, there is also the Brewster School that Laura first taught in.  The school was originally 12 miles north of town (a four hour wagon ride on a good day) and it is small.  The girls loved hearing about how the boys and girls would bring Lard and Bread Sandwiches for lunch and if they were lucky, they would also bring baked potatoes in their pocket to keep their hands warm on the long walk.  The potatoes would then go into the school stove to stay warm until lunch.

Miss M could hardly believe the Laura taught school at age 15 without a high school diploma.  The fact that she did this to help her family pay for Mary's Schooling at the Blind School in Iowa only made her thankful Dad hasn't asked her to get a job to pay for her brother's private schooling this fall.  Just wait M, it could still happen!

The De Smet School where Laura and Carrie attended is in the process of being refurbished.  It's remarkable that under all the layers of wallpaper, they found in tact many pieces of the blackboard including a drawing of a child's face from the 1880s.  Amazing.  Miss M and Miss A could hardly believe that the walls were all covered in blackboard at one time, because that's how they wrote out their math facts, took tests and memorized long essays by writing them down on the blackboard. 

No Smart Boards or Laptops in those days.

It's amazing to think of how challenging it was to go to school on the Prairiey from the long walks to and from, the lack of writing materials, and the fact that boys were often needed to work the fields and missed numerous days.  The school year would only run from Mid October (after harvest) to early March (before planting) and several days to weeks were missed due to blizzards and bad weather.

Yet somehow, I think those children learned more in their daily life than my children do going to school nine months a year!

Miss A and Miss M could hardly believe the you would have to go outside for water.  No indoor plumbing or water fountains here.  Miss A thought it was fun that the doorbell for the school was actually inside the door.  Both girls are also considering adding Chalk Slates to their Back to School list.  I'm just not sure that Target carries them these days!

This is just a start to our trip.  More Laura to come.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bed & Breakfast Staying in the Prairie: DeSmet South Dakota

When we first decided to journey to the "Little Town on the Prairie" of De Smet South Dakota, it just didn't seem right to stay at a normal hotel so we booked a Bed & Breakfast in the heart of the town. It was perfect.

The Heritage House Bed & Breakfast is the site of the original Bank in De Smet and it's right across the street from the Loftus Store and just blocks from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society's Museum.  For our "big city" girls, it was a special treat to experience small town life and we took full advantage. 

I have to give Kudos to De Smet and the great atmosphere they have created in their town.  They not only pay wonderful homage to Laura Ingalls and her family, they are very welcoming to outsiders.  Both the Society and the Homestead go all out to take you back in time to experience what Laura so brilliantly wrote about in her books.  De Smet is the setting of four of the "Little House" books; By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years. 

Pa Ingalls was the first resident of De Smet South Dakota and he along with Ma would make it their final resting place as well.  It was here that the Ingalls family would claim their homestead, build a big house in town, and where Laura and Carrie would go to school.  Ingalls history abounds.

We loved our accommodations at Heritage House.  Laura's Loft as our little three room suite was called had plenty of character, space, and charm.  P and I had our own bedroom as did the girls.  Their was loft for playing or sleeping and we had a nice little living room to watch TV and relax.  Breakfast was scrumptious and the Innkeeper was warm and friendly.  We purchased a great package that included not only two nights stay at the B&B but a picnic "lunch" and tickets to the area attractions and the community pool. 

Our first night, she gave us the heads up on a great family restaurant about 15 miles down the road.  It was yummy and very reasonable.  We had "cheese balls" in honor of "Laura's" Minnesota roots and  were very impressed with the service and food.  The restaurant is near the junction of two big highways: 14 and 81 and they cleverly use that as their name. 

We'd  also been told to buy the Laura Ingalls Wilder Scavenger Hunt from the Society that leads you to various sights throughout the town and learned more about Laura and her family. At each stop, you picked up a fun postcard and put together a few more pieces in the puzzle of the this Little Town on the Prairie.  P and Miss M found a few postcards our first night in town and Miss A got into the action the next day.

Before bed we had a few rounds of UNO in the formal room downstairs at the B & B.  It was a great way to close out our day.  Our adventure was really just beginning in the Prairie.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Gavins Point Dam: First Stop on our Journey

Last week was our trip to Little Town on the Prairie with stops at both Gavins Point and Sioux Falls.  We made what you might call a 'water tour' on our Laura trip.  Considering that the visit to the roaring water sites was my husbands' idea, I think that maybe it was his way to make this girly trip a little more palatable! 

Gavins Point Dam is the Natural Resources Districts flood control mechanism for the Missouri River near Yankton, SD.  Until this spring, it's not something I gave much thought to.  However, the fact that the river is flooding in Iowa and Nebraska due to the increase in water being released at Gavins Point, I've become more aware of its role. 

Driving through the rolling hills of Nebraska, we talked about how grateful we were that we made this trip in the comfort of our Honda mini-van with air conditioning and leather seats.  Sure beats a covered wagon!  However, I think any Pioneer mama would have been knitting away at a blanket just like me.  However, they just might not have had Fox News on the XM Radio and sounds of the girls' DVD player in the background.  If we had brought our old player with just one screen maybe that would have rivaled the pioneer trek.

Gavins Point Dam was awesome and the mighty power of water is absolutely amazing.  They are currently releasing 165,000 cubic feet of water a minute, surpassing any previous record.  Normal is about 30,000 cubic feet.  The Dam Road is currently closed due to the power of the release and we had to view the Dam from both the Nebraska and South Dakota side by traveling the long way around the city of Yankton. 

On the Nebraska side, there is an excellent Lewis and Clark and Gavins Point Museum with lots of hands on exhibits.  The girls loved dressing up in the gear of the Lewis and Clark era and Miss A was especially happy to drive the Steamboat.  I think she was hoping we could go down the river on a Steamboat! 

Because the Hydroelectric Power Plant is on the NE side, you can't get very close to the Water or the Dam, but the views from the Museums' overlook are amazing. We had a little picnic lunch before heading across the river to South Dakota to see the action up close.

Standing right up next to River, the water is spraying and misting so much its almost impossible to get a picture with steaming up the lens of the camera or your glasses.  The sound of crashing waves is LOUD and you can really appreciate the power of water.  Wow!

Witnessing up close the amount of water coming through this Dam, its understandable why it's flooding downstream.  We told the girls that hopefully they will never see this again in their lifetime. At least that is our prayer. 

Gavins Point Dam was an amazing start to a wonderful getaway!