Monday, September 21, 2009

Final thoughts

Vacation, for us, was a dream. Ray and I have been talking about taking a trip to South Dakota for several years, but it just never worked out.

The best side effect of the vacation was … that Lola is now off her nuk! This was completely unplanned, but it worked out. We brought two, lost one along the way Wednesday night and lost the other Thursday. We were about 40 miles from the nearest Target (which is the only store I know of that sells her nuks) so we decided to just tough it out. And it really wasn’t any harder than any other bedtime with Lola. So, even after we found the missing nuk Saturday, we just put it away.

So, other questions you may be wondering:

How did Lola do in the car?
Well, Wednesday night she was an angel. She slept for the first few hours, woke up and played/sang for a few hours and then slept the rest of the way to South Dakota. The ride home? Well, it was pretty hell-ish. We tried to make lots of stops for her to play, and we did, but she still got tired of the car seat. We don’t blame her – we were tired of the car, too – but it got kind of old really fast.

How did the teething go?
Touch and go. She had bad moments, but mostly she was great after Thursday afternoon. Still hasn’t popped it through, but it won’t be long.

Did Lola have fun?
I think so. She was an angel for the majority of the trip, laughing and singing. Her verbal skills increased as Ray and I had her saying "more" for more food, "cracker" for graham crackers and "up" to be picked up. So I'm thinking yes, she had a great time. (But she was thrilled to be home, that's for sure.)

How’d the car do?
We actually took a rental, which was wonderful. We got an Escape and loved having the extra room. We gave the ever-aging Focus a well-deserved weekend off.

Did you do everything you’d wanted?
Yes and no. One of the nicest parts of this vacation was that we purposely did not set an itinerary. We just did what we wanted to do at that moment. And it was wonderful! The one thing I do regret not seeing is Crazy Horse, but we just never seemed to have time.

How did you ever convince Ray to miss the Vikings game?!
I didn’t, really. The long story is that I needed to take Thursday, Friday and Monday off of work since day care was closed. That has been planned for months. Well, I was on Facebook one day and saw a new photo of Chris and Jenny and thought that maybe it was a good time to finally make that SD trip. I suggested it to Ray, who jumped on board immediately, and he made plans. It wasn’t until later that we kind of realized that we wouldn’t be able to watch the game. We caught it on the radio and got text updates from his parents. It worked out fine. That said, if it had been any other team than the Lions, we would have had issues.

Thanks for your interest in our trip! If you actually made it through all four entries, I am sufficiently impressed!!!

I’m going to unpack now. Yippee.

-- Bethany :)

Our last day

Saturday would be our last “real” day of vacation as we had to drive back to Bemidji all day Sunday. But Ray had a rule: No mentioning “tomorrow” (or Sunday) throughout all of Saturday. Nice rule.

Our friends from college, Christopher and Jenny, came and stayed at the KOA Thursday and Friday nights so we could all hang out and our girls could play together. Aliyah is 2 ½ and Lola loved having a playmate!

We spend Saturday morning shopping in some area towns before heading to Sylvan Lake to go swimming. It was 85 or something, so we figured that swimming would be refreshing.

Well, refreshing is one word. Another would be freezing! It was so cold that the girls were shivering. So we spent most of the time in the beach or in the really, really shallow water.

It was still a very fun time (up until Ray lost the keys to the rental in the lake, but Christopher found them submerged in about 5 feet of water about an hour later).

Our last evening was spent around the campfire outside of the our friends’ cabin. Which meant the girls got super filthy while digging and rolling around in the dirt.

Vacations just never last long enough…

-- Bethany :)

Lola’s day

We wanted to go back and actually visit Mt. Rushmore properly. So we decided that due to the heat (mid-80s) it would be best to visit in the morning before it got hot. And we really wanted to make sure that Lola got lots of playtime today.

We spent just over an hour at Mt. Rushmore. Ray and I had both visited before, but there was a new entry and extended exhibits. So we both enjoyed it. (And Lola got a new book, so she was happy, too.)

But more so than anything, Friday was to be Lola’s day. Which mean that, even like at Mt. Rushmore, she would get lots of running around time and doing things that a 1-year-old might enjoy.

So we drove into Rapid City and tried desperately to find a park. We failed in that we never found a playground park, but the civic center in town had some nice green space. So we spent time there as we let her run around. Of course, being that it is still Lola, she was much more into her books than her toys. Such a bookworm!

A nice (?) perk of the green space was that there was small display relating to the Berlin Wall and even had a piece of the wall. (Being the non-history buff that I am, I especially appreciate the explanatory placards.)

We left the park to get lunch. Lola had a fun time playing with the menu and did well sitting still for mealtime, so we figured we were doing better with allowing more outlets for her energy.

After lunch, things got interesting. We had intended to go to the petting farm on our way back to the hotel, but we first came upon Reptile Gardens. Ray and I debated back and forth on which one Lola would enjoy more. But he won when he pointed out that her favorite thing to do at home is stare at the geckos.

So we went to Reptile Gardens – and, boy, are we glad!

This place was so cool. It was amazing. Lola, when she is interested in something, points at it. I don’t think she lowered her arm much while we were there! She had such a great time. It all started with the giant tortoises, which she was both interested in and scared of. She sure hung on to Ray’s shirt really tight!

There also was a display of prairie dogs, which were quite interesting. Lola liked staring at them and got excited when they chirped.

But Lola fell in love with the place during the Snake Show. This is a show during which the leader guy shows you all sorts of different kinds of snakes. Lola was quite interested.

But there were only maybe a dozen of us in the audience, so the leader changed things up a little bit. He usually waits until the end of the show to let the audience touch the boa constrictor, but because the audience was so small, he let everyone come up mid-show.

Lola was amazed that she was allowed to actually touch something! She knows, hopefully, by now that the geckos at home are not to be touched. So when given the opportunity, she reached for that snake with gusto, pulling at the poor thing’s skin (which we learned is super elastic, so we didn’t feel too bad).

We couldn’t stay for the rest of the show, though, because Lola didn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed to touch the cobra or the other venomous snakes. So we left to tour the rest of the facility.

It was a fun day!
-- Bethany :)

Our adventure begins

Our first family vacation officially began, to me, at 6 a.m. Thursday, when we pulled into the parking lot outside of our hotel just a handful of miles from Mt. Rushmore. It took 12 hours of driving (thanks Ray!) to do it – but once we were on the road, we really didn’t want to stop at a hotel for one night just to drive some more.

The hotel – Palmer Gulch Lodge – didn’t have staff on hand until 7 a.m., so we had an hour before we could even ask for a super-early check-in. So, of course, we drove the few miles to Mt. Rushmore. That didn’t even open until 8 a.m., but we were able to check out the profile view and climb around on some rocks. Lola was thrilled to be out of the car! And while she didn’t really notice the carvings, she was impressed with the mountains.

We didn’t really stay long at all as we were all pretty hungry and Ray was exhausted. But we stayed long enough to snap a few pictures. (A nice woman from Alaska, I believe, stopped and snapped the first family photo.)

So then we went back to the lodge and asked, ever so nicely, if it would be at all possible to check in early – a whole seven hours early. And they were super accommodating. Our room was already waiting for us, so they had no problem with us coming so early. And, we were invited to take part in the continental breakfast, which was much appreciated. Lola and I walked around the grounds of the KOA (where the lodge was located) while Ray took a much-needed nap.

We went back out about 11 a.m., once everyone took a little rest. We didn’t really have any plans, so we just went wherever we felt like it. That was nice, to not have a schedule, to not have set destinations.

We drove along Needles Highway and through Custer State Park, where we saw lots of different animals. We stopped often to get some air and to walk around, taking some pictures. I must say, though, while Ray loved the tunnels, I myself could have gone without.

Lola, especially, was impressed with the burros! She kept pointing at them and laughing when they approached the car (and I broke the rules and fed one of them a handful of baby snacks – which was cool until s/he stuck her/his entire head in the car and I got a little freaked out).

We ended the day by grabbing dinner at the on-site restaurant near the hotel. It was good, I think, but Ray and I quickly learned that we had spent too much time in the car Thursday: Lola wanted nothing to do with sitting at the table. She wanted to run. And let us know by screaming. So, we took turns eating while the other parent took her outside to run around.

We pledged to do better on Friday.

-- Bethany :)