What we did on our summer vacation - North Dakota Edition

We just got home from a week away. It was fun but I'm exhausted. That toddler of mine is a super good traveler EXCEPT when it comes to sleeping away from home outside of a car.

We did an overnight drive to get us up to Grandpa and Grandma's. So about 16 hours in a car in a 21 hour period. It was intense but it worked!

Then we had four whole days to spend visiting family and...

playing some basketball with Aunt Steph

gardening with grandpa

playing with the puppy. Norah only says 10 or so words but knows both "Puppy" and "Doggy!"

Visiting the Great-grandmothers

Taking Tractor rides!

Enjoying the pretty North Dakota views - a double rainbow!

My SIL Steph is newly engaged and my in-laws 40th anniversary is this month so we had a little wedding dress party. She wore her mom's dress and I tried on mine that we have been storing at their house. The kids enjoyed seeing all the prettiness. 

Now I don't seem to have any pictures of Craig's mom but I promise she was around. I think every time I saw a good shot of her and the kids, we used her phone. Good for her, not for me. Eventually it was time to go. Lucy was super sad but we had several fun things to do on our slower journey back home.

First stop was the International Vinegar Museum. It's small but interesting. We got a personal tour and vinegar tasting session. Jonah politely declined but Lucy and Norah but tasted right along with us. Norah really liked it!

There are a lot of types of vinegar. Lucy know wants to experiment and try different types in recipes. They're normally ranch kids but she and I made a creamy balsamic vinaigrette tonight and everyone tried it and the bigger two said they liked it. Norah didn't say anything but I think she missed the ranch.

I've been taking long roadtrips with Craig for a long time, we took our first one before we were even dating which is probably unusual*. So it's not a surprise to me that he always wants to stop and read the historical markers. I may or may not roll my eyes at times because when we've got three small kids with us - I just want to get to our next stop! But marriage is a compromise so - we stop as long as nobody is asleep. And this one was actually neat. It was about a lone cottonwood that grew here and played a role in saving the life of a teacher and her students during a blizzard. Which by itself is a good story but it reminded the kids and I of The Tree in the Trail, the story of another lone cottonwood that has saved a life or two. We speculated that maybe Holling had heard of this tree and used it as inspiration. Who knows, it could be true!

We also stopped on the highway (the things you can get away with in the Dakotas!) because off to the side was a Great Blue Heron. Just like the one that talked to Jeremy Vole! I didn't get a picture of it but we all got a good look.

The next stop was a planned one - Pipestone National Monument. We learned about pipestone, watched some being carved on site and then stretched our legs with a nice hike. 

The caterpillars were plentiful and reminded Lucy of the caterpillars we had waiting for us at home.  I was reminded several times by Lucy to make sure I wasn't stepping on any. All life is precious when you are seven. I promised them we'd try to figure out what type but we haven't yet. Caterpillar identification is not easy! (Update: I finally took a few minutes. I think its a tent caterpillar but am not 100% sure.)

We ended that day pretty early so we had to time to swim at the hotel pool. And then Craig walked Norah around the hotel for hours until she finally fell asleep. She hadn't even napped that much in the car so I'm not sure what was up with her but she was up bright and early with the rest for another fun day of travel. 

This day we hadn't planned in advance and everything I was finding for the 2-3 hours from our hotel range was closed or kinda pricey but the night before I just happened to see that the Josyln Art Museum in Omaha had a special exhibit featuring Children's Illustrator Alice Provenson. We love her Maple Hill Farm books! Our are practically in pieces and I've had to tape them up because we've read them so much. I probably have Our Animal Friends memorized. And the Museum is free! Perfect!

Jonah's not normally very cooperative when it comes to photographs but he wanted a picture with the Maple Hill Farm original cover art and I love how you can see his personality a lot in these.

I didn't realize that Alice Provenson had done as much Illustrating as she had. I recognized several of her Little Golden Books. And I've got more books added to my Amazon list now!

It was perfect. I didn't know it but they also have an interactive kids art room which is very neat. The kids made their own stop motion animation videos, did some still life and and portrait drawings, and designed their own pottery pieces.

And on our way out they had a sculpture garden with a kid-friendly wading pool. Norah went in with just a diaper and I told the bigger kids to do their best to stay dry. Which of course meant I had to dig through the car to find dry clothes for them afterwards but I knew it would end that way. Then Craig loaded them back up while I ran back into the art museum in search of Jonah's lost happy meal toy that he loved and couldn't do without. I found it! Off we went. 

We got to Kansas City by mid-afternoon and took a break there at my dad's house. They weren't there but we were able to let kids play a bit, use the neighborhood pool and cook dinner there. Then we changed the kids into pajamas, loaded them up and let them watch a few shows on the tablet then a fairy tale audiobook before sleeping through the rest of the drive home. We don't do a ton of movies on our drives but used strategically, they are pretty useful. The drive home was 5 states in 40 hours but most of that was awake time. Overall this trip was pretty awesome. They are all great travelers and having the extra space of the van really helped. Plus I was really surprised by how well Norah did. I'm already planning our next big trip!

*We were friends at college in TX. My family lived in Kansas but I didn't have a car. His family lived in North Dakota. At Christmas time, I bartered a ride to/from Kansas for a night in our guest room and a tasty breakfast cooked by my mom. I saved the cost of a flight, he saved the cost of a hotel room and I was able to put my secret "make my crush fall in love with me plan" into action. It totally worked! 

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