Wednesday, August 31, 2011
It seems like once we got home there was an onslaught of critical items to be dealt with. First, there was unpacking, cleaning and vacuuming the car, then came laundry that didn't seem to have an end, and yard work, and kids to get ready to start school. In addition to this there were the normal things like grocery shopping and meal planning. To top it all off, we had two exchange students awaiting our arrival. They needed some attention to get settled. They needed cell phones, laptops, cameras, and school supplies. Let's just say it's been a whirlwind. That brings me to my favorite aspect of our trip. I had my family all to myself with no distractions for a whole month. The kids were amazingly adaptable, just happy to be doing whatever was on the agenda. There was some work getting camp set up and navigating from place to place in unfamiliar settings, but no to-do lists and no social obligations to compete with, no lessons, sports, or meetings. It really was a neat family time. Everyone got along great. I'm not saying there were no disagreements in the back end of the van, but for the most part they were short lived and sorted out without adult intervention. We got through about three quarters of the book, "Little Women", which was delightful and also applicable to our family. There was a personality among the little women which matched up with each of my little women, and I found myself learning some parenting and other skills that I think will come in handy in the future of our family.
I feel blessed that we had the means and the skills to plan and carry out this adventure, that no one got sick or injured (beyond the scope of what a bandaid could fix) while traveling, and that we escaped all inclement weather, which seemed to be present both before and after our trip in the places we visited.
We are already planning our next such escapade and several other shorter ones. I am glad for James' job that allows him so much time off in the summer and his patience with my lack of navigation skills. We will continue the tradition of playing Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" at the start of each day, just to torture the children. On the last day I told them if they didn't all sing along I would play it over again. It was a success. Each Helfrich voice could be heard loud and clear. I think I might just play it at home occasionally for fun, and I will definitely keep it handy for our next trip. Another tradition we will hold on to is our morning exercises. We brought along a sleeping pad for each family member (which was roughly the size of a yoga mat) and made a deck of exercise cards, all of which could be done on the mat. every morning we camped, we set out the mats and did about 20 minutes of mat exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, handstands, squats, jumping jacks, and a few other fancier things from Amber's gymnastics conditioning routine. We always started out with the sun salutations, which all the kids know by heart now. We got a few strange looks from neighbors, but it really was fun, and now even Nicole can to 10 "man" push-ups.
As the familiar outline of the Tetons came into view once again, I thought back to the first day of our trip, as the sun rose over the Tetons early in the morning and we all wondered what was in store. In the same surroundings, the sun set as a beautiful end to our trip. Let life resume...
Friday, August 19, 2011
|Their Junior Ranger books were never far from sight.|
|Dinner at our camp site.|
|Inside Liberty Jail|
|A common sight.|
Sunday, August 14, 2011
|Our home in Shenandoah|
|Shenandoah, the view from the top of our hike|
Saturday, August 13, 2011
|Do you think we stayed too long? I can't quite tell.|
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Thursday, August 4, 2011
|The view of the city|
|The Rothey and Helfrich kids on Penn Campus|
|Hunting for frogs|
|They became pets for the next several days. This one got a boat.|
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Monday, July 25, 2011
Badlands, Minuteman Missile Site (another Jr. Ranger Program), and driving. Badlands National Park was interesting, but it was very hot outside and we felt like you could see most of it just as well from the car, so we only made two stops. One bloody nose and stomach ache later, we reached the Minuteman Missile information center. It was very informative and worth the short stop.
Things we saw after we left the badlands: farmland, grassland, the Missouri River, hills, corn fields, wind farms.
Things we didn’t see after we left the badlands: mountains, tall trees, turns in the road.
We planned on eating dinner at Sioux Falls and Christine insisted we eat Italian. Nelda (our GPS) took us to one restaurant that had closed. The second was about to close but they let us in for a final order. We ordered three plates of pasta and two pizzas. When the food arrived (it was 9:00pm and we hadn't eaten a real lunch that day), everyone was very quiet and no one complained about the food. At the end of the meal, Rachel said "you know, I think that was good." We ate so quickly no one took the time to taste the food (and I think our dishes could have been passed off as clean and put directly on the shelf).
Tip of the day: For everyone, make it a point to purchase and consume fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible. It will help keep things running smoothly despite the camping food and eating out. No one wants to be all stopped up.
We ended up spending the night at Devil’s Tower, which was filled with cottonwood trees that were dripping sap. Everything was sticky. As we walked around, our shoes would become inches higher due to layers of leaves sticking on them. We were glad to get out of there and clean off everything. Once we were back in the car, there was a beautiful, winding road to get out of the canyon. Wendy had some things set up in her spot which kept getting knocked over from the turns so she asked James if he would stop turning... We found a nice park in Rapid City to have lunch. From there we went to Mt. Rushmore. This was my first time seeing it and I thought it was impressive. I highly recommend the Junior Ranger Program for the kids. It keeps them occupied, gives them things to look for and teaches interesting facts. At the end, they get a cool badge.
Crazy Horse was a bit of a letdown. When we saw it from the road, we decided that was close enough and turned around.
Tip of the day: For kids, pack a large ziplock storage bag with paper bags, construction paper, scissors, glue, and markers. My kids spent hours (literally) creating and making shows out of their puppets.
We’re off! We left the house at 5:10 am and headed toward Jackson as the sun rose. When we got to Jackson, we ate breakfast at the Bunnery. The food was good and we enjoyed a sophisticated conversation about owning your own restaurant and putting a whoopee cushion under people just before you sat them down. No one could decide whether that would increase or decrease business (I have a pretty good idea). That topic brought up what would happen if the Queen of England passed gas. They determined that it would have to be publicized, and they would embed the toot in the newspaper in scratch and sniff form.
From Jackson, after we crossed the mountains and left them behind us, the “real” Wyoming came into view. What a harsh place. The temperature was in the upper 90’s, but there were snow fences all over, indicating a lot of winter snow. The wind was howling and we passed places with names such as “rattlesnake hills”, “poison spider road”, and “hell’s half acre”. We drove through with the minimal amount of stops, but we did need to eat lunch. We ended up in Casper at a park that was promptly nicknamed “poo park” due to its proximity to a wastewater treatment facility upwind of us.
We made it to Devil’s Tower just before sunset. It was worth it. It was bigger and more impressive than I expected, and by that time it had cooled off enough to walk the trail around the bottom. There was a huge boulder field around the base which made it possible for the girls to take the path of most resistance. Instead of staying on the paved trail, they climbed every rock along the way. No one complained about the distance because they were distracted by the rock climbing. It was great after being cooped up in the car all day. Next stop, Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse.
Tip of the day: For women, pack a sports bra or bikini top to make it easier to wash up (mostly) modestly at the water spicket without getting your clothes wet.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
On a different level, the last day of school for my oldest three kids was a bit sad for me because Wendy will start school next year and that makes me feel like I am moving into a different stage of life. On the last day, I told Wendy it was the last school day that I would have a little girl at home. She had a very concerned look on her face and said, "Mommy, I think you should call some of the neighbors to come over and play with you while I'm at school so you won't be lonely." I think that's a great idea. Does anyone want to come over and play?
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Thinking about my class led me to think about the "mothers" I have been blessed to have as examples and influences in my life. Starting with my own Mom, who would commonly be seen as the only mom out playing softball in the yard with us. She had a very laid back attitude that always put me at ease. She wasn't always a stay at home mom, and I remember getting off the bus from school, hoping she would be there when I got home. Things were just more fun when she was there. The fact that the house was not always meticulously maintained was compensated for by a Grandma who vacuumed and dusted her whole house every day, and probably washed all of the walls and windows on a weekly basis as well. I have distinct memories of her picking up small pieces of lint, dirt, etc. off of the floor, not more than 5 seconds after it appeared there. She loved to be involved with our lives in a deep way. She wanted to see and reward us for good report cards. She came to school and dance events, and invited us over for dinner regularly. We could stop by and walk right in without any notice. This is in contrast to my other Grandma, who had so many grand kids (40+) that she had to try really hard to remember our birthdays. Still, I have pleasant memories of tea parties at her house with my other girl cousins. We each had a favorite fancy tea cup, which she kept prominently displayed in the dining room. She even had sugar cubes and these shiny silver tongs we had to use to pick them up. She taught me how to iron using pillow cases that I'm convinced had already been ironed. She was a very proper and formal lady who once fed me a cow tongue sandwich that she told me was ham.
Later on in life, after I had moved away from my family, I met the girl, who wasn't a mom yet, who tricked me into becoming a runner. After coming in last at every high school track meet, I had labeled myself as a "non runner". At the gym where I had recently started working, a girl named Jill became my friend. One day, she convinced me to go running with her. "Just a short run," she said. Now, at that time, a short run for me was one mile or less. Not so for her. We started out and she told me we could run as slow as I wanted, but we would not walk. Four miles later, we arrived back at the gym, and I felt fine. After that, she convinced me that I could go farther and that was the beginning of my running hobby, and the reason I was running 9 miles in preparation for my 5th half marathon. It's amazing what a little bit of encouragement can do.
These Women remain an example to me today, but I found my thoughts drawn to all of the other amazing mothers who have been placed in my life now. My sister who completely understands my sense of humor and puts up with more rants than she should have to. She is one stage ahead of me in her family and is alerting me to what lies ahead with teenagers. My cousin, Wendy, who has been my best friend since about 6th grade, who I got into trouble with as a teenager, who knew me better than I knew myself, and who now I don't stay in touch with enough. She has been a working mom most of her married life and has been an example of someone who just does what has to be done, and somehow finds a way to keep life fun and exciting for her family. I also have a sister-in-law who fairly late in life made a significant change in her religion and is now raising her family faithfully in the Catholic church. Another sister-in-law who every time I talk to her says, "let me know if there's anything I can do for you," and I know she means it. All are great examples of courage, understanding, and diligence in doing their best as moms.
By the end of my run, I felt abundantly blessed at the people who have shaped who I am and those who continue to be sources of strength and inspiration to me today. I am convinced that being a Mom is the best and most important job on earth, and I am a little intimidated at the prospect of raising 4 daughters who will someday, hopefully be moms themselves. I just hope that wonderful women are placed in their lives to compensate for my weaknesses.
The nine miles flew by, and I arrived at home in great spirits, ready for a day of yard work.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
"Well Mom, I understand everything, but I'm just not sure which face I'm supposed to use."
"What do you mean which face?"
"I mean, am I supposed to use my happy face, or my grumpy face, or my surprised face, or my mad face? There are a lot to choose from."
"I suppose you can choose which ever face you want. That is really up to you."
After we finished and we were back in the car, I asked her which face she decided to use. She demonstrated it and it looked exactly the same as she looked all through the test...her serious face. The girls are doing great. They are awesome, each one of them. I'll have to save the happenings of the adults for a later post, as bed time is nearing and I have to go round up everyone from the various corners of the neighborhood.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
A bit later that day, I was parking the car in the university parking lot to walk to my class when I noticed the temperature was -12. Let me tell you what it felt like (my walk from the parking lot to the class room is 12 minutes). The mental image that came to mind was that my face was so frozen it felt like it was going to fall off and shatter on the sidewalk. I was glad I didn't see anyone I knew, because my face was so numb I could only form words in slow motion. Was my flesh close to freezing? I really can't wait until spring. Please come soon before some one's flesh freezes.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Monday, January 3, 2011
Now for the report of our trip: The flight there went great. The kids were completely prepared with backpacks full of things to entertain themselves (They each carried their own!). We left home in heavy coats and boots, and arrived to about 85 degrees.
Our hotel was everything I hoped. It was just fancy enough, had ocean view balconies, and it was impeccably clean. The staff were friendly and plentiful. My favorite was the griddle chef, who made me delicious, original egg breakfasts every morning, with a wide, friendly smile. I wish I remembered his name.
The beaches were amazing! The most beautiful I have seen yet. Every morning our big decision was: "Which first, the pool or the beach?" It was always a hard decision.
There was lounging to do,
Seashells to collect,
Waves to watch and jump over,
Sand pyramids to build,
And a lot of pondering to do.
But it wasn't all play. There were also handstands to execute perfectly,
and pyramids to climb. Everyone except Nicole mad it up the 130 foot Nohoc Mul pyramid. She made it half way up then turned around to look down and got freaked out. She lamented the rest of the trip that she "wished she would never have looked down."
Did I mention the company was great too. The first night after the girls were asleep, I went into their room and opened their balcony so they could hear the sound of the waves. The next morning, I asked everyone how they slept, and Wendy replied, "I didn't sleep well because someone left the ocean on all night!" You have to love kids.
This was such a great trip! It had the right mix of adventure and relaxation with the benefit of kids who are old enough to be easy and add to the fun, and a husband who is always a fun and supportive person to hang out with. There is never a dull moment. All in all, I would not change a single thing.