Schooling At Home: Unusual learning

We love our little home school!

I’m not about to preach and boast my kids’ test scores or reading levels.

I’m not about to try to lure you’re public-school-going-kids over to the dark side.

I’m about to share some of our unique ways of incorporating learning in our everyday lives.

These ideas are suitable for home school, unschool or to support their public school education at home, and let me know what you think!

Within These Walls:

Your home, whether you realize it or not, is full of free educational resources. The key to a well-rounded education doesn’t exclusively mean reading, writing and arithmetic. Sending your kids out into the world without common life skills is, in my opinion, worse than not teaching them to read. We all need to be able to manage money, prepare a meal or fold laundry. So, LET THEM HELP!

I know, it’s easier to brush them off and faster to do it yourself, but you’re not doing anyone any favors. Loving them is letting them do.

In the Kitchen

Math and reading tools:

Cookbooks and measuring cups support reading, calculating, understanding fractions and the process of following instructions.

Science:

Achieving a meal using ingredients is like performing experiments and learning science. Try a recipe that calls for baking powder twice, once with the baking powder and once without. Have your little one observe the difference and draw a conclusion.

You could simply boil a pot of water and watch what happens.

Try this musical experiment:

Water glasses experiment

Need: Water and glasses

Instructions: fill glasses with different amounts of water.

Wet finger tip and run around mouth of glass.

Do the same for all glasses and hear the difference in sound.

Draw conclusions

The kitchen isn’t the only place to home school, we’ll get deeper into these walls in another post.

Out In The World

The Backyard

Observing wildlife is an intrinsic part of childhood. Any little person marvels at the site of a squirrel or bird. Encourage your child to follow the bird and see where it goes. Did it hop? Fly? Walk? Where is it going? To a tree? Nest? Water?

Walking down the sidewalk or road is helpful to teach nature, geography and social studies. Point out a mailbox and explain how sending a letter works. Then, send a letter to someone asking for a return letter. Who doesn’t love getting mail? (as long as it’s not a bill, of course)

Observing the weather, saying hi to the neighbor, watching the garbage truck and other neighborhood experiences are all opportunities for learning!

The Grocery Store

Choosing products by reading labels and observing nutritional value teaches comparison by value as well as price and healthy eating habits. Teaching that the unit price is a portion of the purchase price depending on size, weight or quantity is invaluable. I didn’t learn this trick until I had a family of my own and I save so much money keeping an eye on the unit.

Watching for deals and coupons helps emphasize the importance of not paying more than you need to and saving money. Money that your child may have earned at home doing chores and how to manage while shopping will definitely teach the value of the almighty dollar.

The Public Library

I have yet to come across a paid library as I’m sure they exist but your local free public library will have the obvious, books, but also magazines, movies, computers and internet, as well as forms publications and a plethora of information about homeschooling and education.

The World Wide Web

This blog is free! Along with many other blogs teeming with free lesson plans, printables and downloads. A simple internet search of the grade level and materials will provide days of learning and seat work (if that’s what you’re going for).

Many websites offer free ebooks in exchange for subscribing for emails or newsletters. *you can always unsubscribe after downloading your goodies. Then again, why would you, when you’ll risk missing out on future deals and promotions being offered?

A popular shopping website known for books and great deals has free ebooks for download to any mobile device. The application is also available for pc or apple download. Finding the free books can be time-consuming but that is where the free subscriptions come in; websites devoted to sharing home school deals have done the work for you, just check your inbox.

Sites that offer free products need to earn money to keep what’s free, free. So, it’s important to make a purchase now and again. Be sure to never pay full price and search for coupons as well as get rebates on your shopping by joining that website that pays you a percentage of your purchases, you know the one.

So obviously, this post only touches the tip of the iceberg of homeschooling resources. I have not included any affiliate links because i do not have permission to do so (a quick search will get you there), I’ve only listed the ones that we use regularly or know to be helpful. As alway, share your thoughts or add your own free resources in the comments.

 

I’m working on getting more out here about our schooling life and hope you’ll stick around! Don’t miss a post; subscribe for emails.

Mammoth Heeey Boo-Boo

September 29 Day 49

We woke up 14 miles from the Kentucky line and made our way into Mammoth Cave National Park just before lunch. We checked out the Visitor’s Center and bought our 3:30 cave tour tickets then ate lunch and while Papa Bear and our younger three daughters took rest, I brought Juniper and Lemon to the exhibits in the museum. We learned about the different rocks and how this cave system was formed by an underground river.

 

Upon waking we had about an hour to have a snack, use the restroom and finish our Ranger booklets before descending into the cave.

It was chilly walking down the 62 steps and once inside, our guide showed us into a big “room” where early settlers extracted minerals and used them to process and make gunpowder.

It was cool to see the 200-year-old equipment preserved in here like it was just used yesterday.

Our tour was more of a talk and less of a tour, we barely entered the Mammoth Cave system and then it was time to turn around and come back out.

We were left wanting more cave and less guide.

He did tell us about early cave explorers that died in the cave and because of the cave’s steadfast temperature and humidity, their bodies and artifacts did not decay they would mummify.

 

After our cave talk, we were walking back to the visitor center when one of our many fans…I mean a stranger approaches; comments how beautiful all our girls are, proceeds to count them, comment on my looks and hand each of our daughters a $2 dollar bill. Yep, another random encounter… a day in the life…

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Juniper and Lemon received their 10th Junior Ranger Badges. Then, we went to the gift shop for a postcard and souvenirs. While there, a friendly lady approached and we began talking. Before we knew it, it was 9pm and we were neighbors at a nearby campground exchanging phone numbers.

Some times things just click and this was no exception. Our commonalities linked us inexplicably. It’s eerie and weird that I felt like soul mates with this wonderful couple but fun and comforting to know them and their beautiful family.

It is funny how things work out because we didn’t much enjoy the cave but hope a long-lasting friendship arises from the ashes of the Mammoth Cave and the end of our trip.

Tuesday Sept. 30 Day 50 (holy cannoli… 50 days!)

Jellystone Campground is cute with Yogi Bear and all his friends. This particular place has a humongous trampoline-like-pillow that we all had an absolute blast bouncing around letting off steam. I did some laundry, the kids played at the playground and Darryl caught up on some work.

This slide show is a bit long but the joy is immeasurable!

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This break from the road is just what we all need to replenish our spirits enough for the final push(800+miles).

We’ll stay here and rest one more night and our last leg from Cave City, KY to our home in Pennsylvania will begin tomorrow.

 

 

M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I and Music City

Sunday Sept. 28 Day 48

Ash, since learning the state song, has asked to go to Mississippi, I guess because it’s just so fun to say, it must be the most fun place in the world! It’s not on our itinerary but we’ll be passing through Memphis, a border city just miles from the MS line we obliged our 3-year-old explorer and another dream come true.(even if only for 10 minutes)

We made a geocaching trip out of it which led us to a target parking lot. (whisper: it was in the light post) When we lifted the cover to expose the cache, bugs fell out. Not just any bugs. THE. BIGGEST. BUGS. I. HAVE. EVER. SEEN. ever. Because this one was hers, Ash was excited to grab the container until we saw the bugs. She cried, I ran and Papa Bear was left to fend for himself against these big bugs. Did I mention they were dead?

We scooted around Memphis and entered Nashville to walk the streets of Music City and enjoy burgers at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. As we wandered dusk in the most musical of places in our country we heard rock, country, blues and folk. The music poured from bars, restaurants and mainly from the musicians on the streets.

It was amazing. (Darryl and I will be returning here for sure!) As we waited for our table we danced on the sidewalk and enjoyed the southern sunset.

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Sitting in the restaurant, live music ringing in our ears, the surprising tunes of our favorite playlist including our wedding song which we rarely ever hear without having requested it, we couldn’t help but stand up and dance right there in the middle of the crowded tables.

Nashville is the kind of place I wish we’d planned on spending more time in, we’re anxious to how close we are to home though so off we go!

Health Foodies Fishing

I’ve done some serious soul-searching… in it all I’ve begun overhauling everything in my world to create a happy, healthy stress-free existence. I’d love to be able to share it all with you but I respect you, reader, enough not to leave you floating at the balloon museum…so I’m not giving up. I’ll take you home with us. Then, when I’ve worked all the “other stuff” out, you can try it with me and see if you, too can get happy, healthy and stress-free. If you want.

Wednesday September 24 Day 44

On our way out of the park we went for a walk for a geocache. We met fellow northeasterners and chit-chatted about RV’ing. The heat of the day hit us fast, so we were back on the road in no time.

Another long day of driving and we entered TX and strived for Amarillo. Darryl was craving steak dinner and without Costco or healthy edible options in the grocery store we had dwindled our supplies of snacks and easy meals so we were all craving something other than carrots, macaroni or cheese sandwiches.

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We spent the night in Amarillo and made a point to get grocery shopping as soon as possible.

Thursday, September 25 Day 45

These days of straight driving are long but go by quick. They’re also running together in my mind making it difficult to recount for journalling’s sake.

Into Oklahoma and it’s a “drag-our-feet” kind of day the girls alternated playing with their dolls, singing songs, coloring-workbooks and snacks…lots of snacks. Days like today i pump ’em full of snacks hoping they won’t notice we’ve been riding more than not, lately.

A visitor’s center packed with pamphlets, maps and books proved our suspicions 100’s of miles of nothing; well that’s not entirely true and if you are a Oklahoman, I’m deeply sorry to offend.

Even the friendly volunteer had little to offer besides obvious water parks in Oklahoma City. (not our cup of tea)

We like to go off the beaten path so we picked up the outdoor guide and found a state park close to the interstate with our must-haves, water and electric hook ups, a playground and a minimal camping fee. This park also offered a lake for fishing (something Lemon has asked to do).

It was perfect! Only it was on the other side of the state.

Friday September 26 Day 46

Our mission was to find a grocery store, of which we found…one.

We bought orange juice.

Everything in the store was sprayed with, made with or just chemicals in a box.

Not in line with how we eat and we were sad.

We thought maybe there is no demand for organic non-GMO gluten-free food in a small town grocery so we swallowed hard and ventured the nearby Walmart.

As we’re walking in we see about a dozen locals meandering either in or out and we had an observation: all but one of them was severely overweight.

Darryl and I discuss the cause for this and its a topic for another post, another day but i feel like shaking these sheep and yelling “Wake up! You’re dying a slow miserable death.”

Is it the water? Culture? T.V.? Technology? Education? Lack of options? Just plain stupidity?

EGH!

We picked up what little of “our” food we could find and chugged along across the state landing in Eufala Lake State Park just about lunch time. The girls played while Darryl and I got our fishing gear ready- Off he went with our little cherubs and I blogged while the 3 youngest of our brood slept. We cleaned up , they played, we ate dinner and after a game of bingo we all went to bed.

Awesome side note about Lake Eufala Park: The nature center was educational, fun and just really cool! With an amphibian house we entered a sweltering jungle-like atmosphere to see frogs all over. on the floor the ceiling the windows, we could literally reach out and touch them. The turtles were cute too swimming in the water feature. The main building had its moments as well, the touch table was the highlight but the girls wandered exploring and learning like crazy.

Some fun from today:

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Saturday September 27   Day 47

More fishing, cleaning house and bodies then into Arkansas we go. Rest time ended at a welcome center at the state line and another geocache found.

We walked around and stretched our legs before eating dinner at our favorite pastime, Panera Bread in Fort Smith.

Miles and miles and hours and hours to make it into Forest City, AR where we crashed. Not literally, figuratively we were exhausted!

This part of the trip is just as boring and miserable as I had agonized over it in Las Vegas.

We have the best kids in the world though, occupying themselves with card games, pretend play, Nintendo DS, watching movies quizzing each other in Math problems, reading stories, telling jokes and simply being sweet and silly.

I know riding down the road may sound miserable but we all had fun while looking forward to getting home.

Full of hot air

Tuesday September 23…. Day 43

New Mexico is warm at 7am. Lazily I went into the convenience store for coffee, juice and fruit. We ate breakfast and shuffled into the trading post just after they opened their doors.

The two-story gift shop was littered with wooden beams and indian artifacts mostly pottery and jewelry but the girls found these handmade dolls that are just darling and I fell in love with a turquoise ring with onyx inlay! As we wait for our purchases to be wrapped up, the sound of pounding metal is in the background. Oak and I follow the noise to see a lady pounding silver strips with a mallet. She’s preparing them for the craftsman to fashion them into earrings, necklaces or whatever their destiny.

It makes us feel good to support the locals and make it a constant decision not to purchase anything that isn’t home(USA) made.

The girls even know why we don’t, or hardly ever step foot in a Wal-Mart “China-crap”

We kept heading East on I-40 and into Albuquerque for a visit to the balloon museum.

This trip is filling up with fulfilling dreams. The trip in itself is my long time dream come true only my original version (quite askew) involved only me and a Volkswagen. Years later, more dreams piled up; like seeing the Redwoods and driving through a tree or walking along the Grand Canyon; riding a “duck” down the Wisconsin River or visiting Mount Rushmore.

If you’ve known me personally or been to my house you’ll see balloons- paintings, calendars, puzzles, sun catchers, garden wind spinny thingy. Hot Air Balloons Everywhere!

When Darryl and I officially got engaged, his proposal was accompanied by a gift certificate for a Hot Air Balloon Ride. In fact he expressed we would have been in a Hot Air Balloon for the proposal if life hadn’t gotten in the way, as it too often does.

See, at the time, Darryl was about to receive a corneal transplant and the altitude and pressure would put him in danger. So, we waited- then a year later we were married and a few short weeks after expecting Ash’s arrival.

needless to say we’ve been busy working, having babies, and just living our life.

Well, this day I didn’t ride in one but I learned a lot and we got to play with simulators, try ballooning experiments and see a ton of memorabilia. It was a very special place and the very next best thing to an actual Balloon ride. It’s the kind of day and place I will never forget!

After lunch, we worked our way almost clear across the state and into Santa Rosa.

I feel bad coming into towns like this-more empty lots, dim lights and boarded windows. A motel, gas station, bank and grocery store.

A grocery store with not more than five aisles. A grocery store with dusty cans and brown meat-meat that’s been frozen -thawed and relabeled because they just can’t throw out another piece of it. They’re about to go under holding onto a thread of beer sales and the ever popular rice and beans meal of the locals.

This town sits on historic Rt. 66. A town that’s flailing in this terrible economy and corporatacracy of Wal-Marts and interstates. I’m again reminded of Radiator Springs.

Towns once filled with life and lights are now dead and dim. Crippled.

So, what brought us here, you ask?

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While looking for a place to spend the night, we found a campground here in Santa Rosa Lake State Park. The fee is minimal and we managed full hookup with a great lake view.

It was quiet and peaceful with a playground where Darryl took the girls for a while so I blogged before we all showered and hit the hay.

Petrified and Painted

We continue our tour of the nation’s parks, something we hadn’t planned on but after Mount Rushmore have made it our mission to visit as many as possible along the way. We’re loading our sashes with badges and patches galore!

Monday, September 22 Day 42

We woke up surprised at the base of a mountain and continued East on I-40. Something made me get off the interstate in Winslow. It might have been a crying hungry baby or ants-in-the-pants of my two-year-old but Darryl had an epiphany in the Winslow Visitor’s Center.

He was standing on a corner in Winslow, AZ. Just like the Eagles song Take it Easy.

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We learned after the popular song topped the charts, an artist commissioned a statue that now stands at a historic landmark corner. In fact the corner is classified as a park complete with a mural and permanently parked flatbed Ford!

Among the shops and tourists, we took our turn taking pictures and standing by the “man.”

As we were leaving Darryl said he never knew that just down the street from his regular truck stop he frequented was a very cool thing.

It’s a great day. We blessed a hungry man in need with food and water and went on our way.

Expecting an actual forest, Darryl was disappointed in the park. We entered and made our way to the museum. He asks, “this is it? where are the trees?”

Petrified trees are not trees at all. Not anymore. They also can be found anywhere in the world.

This place, The Petrified Forest National Park, though holds the world’s largest natural collection in one location.

These are ancient trees that grew some 200 ft. tall thousands of years ago in a rainforest that used to be Arizona. Dinasaur-like creatures climbed on their limbs and over time, eras passed. There was a great flood. The trees were ripped from the earth and carried away. They were water-logged with clay, sand, silt and sediment. All the while the earth’s plates shifting as crystal formed and inhabited the wood.

Darryl laughs at my analogy but it reminds me of zombies. The rock comes up to the tree and says, “now you will become like me, I’ll take you over.”

The transformation takes decades but eventually this masterpiece is formed and it is beautiful.

Unfortunately, preservationists weren’t the first to discover this treasure chest of history. No. It was explorers, settlers and entrepreneurs looking for riches and fortune out west.

They stumbled upon the wood and saw quartz. Saw $$$.

They used dynamite to split the rocks and extract anything that could fetch a price so we are now left with small chunks of trees with holes in them.

Sad, but true and fascinating to learn about their awesome journey and this place. I’m proud to say it’s protected by our National Park Service, for now. Every U.S. Citizen needs to do their part.

By visiting the parks, purchasing or just donating we can ensure they will continue to provide our children’s children with the awe-inspiring beauty we’ve witnessed here today.

After the Petrified Forest the drive back to the interstate is gorgeous as it is littered with more geologic history in the Painted Desert. Wood, rocks, hills and valleys. the view from the road is one the best throughout our trip. It really looks like someone took a paint brush and chose all these earthy tones to paint this place.

Back on I-40 East and out of Arizona, we tried to find indian reservations without straying from our path and it proved difficult so we settled for trading posts and gift shops to learn about the local tribes. In Gallup, our final stop for the night was a trading post that had closed for the day so we camped in their lot.

A Canyon is Anything but

What’s in the Grand Canyon?

Nothing.

Or is there?

This place is filled with many things one of the most beautiful places in the world (my world) is filled with magic. Beauty. The awe-inspiring look on first time visitors (mine included) reflects out of this trench in the earth. A trench dug out of the earth that stretches for hundreds of miles. Standing on the rim it goes as far as the eyes can see.

It’s full of fearless visitors climbing out to the edge of the cliff for that all important selfie and status update to share on instagram. it’s full of pounding hearts, trembling hands and sweaty foreheads of the many climbers, hikers and the like.

Day 41 Sunday, September 21

We packed up and checked out of the campground to make the 65 mile journey to the canyon in our RV.

Travelling much lighter with only one stroller a nursing cover, diapers and some water we went to the Yavapai Geology Museum for the Geo-Glimpse Ranger talk. Darryl especially enjoyed learning about the canyon’s history and origin. I was particularly freaked out with how cavalier the ranger was leaning on the guard rail at the edge of the south rim’s cliff.

After our 30 minute “schooling” we trekked along the Rim’s trail following a timeline of rocks and gazing out over the edge high above the Colorado River.

I’m in awe of the kids and how they don’t take it for granted but also don’t seem the least bit phased by the majesty either.

They’re just here with us walking along rubbing the ancient bedrock chunks displayed along the trail.

The trail, a little over 1.5 miles brought us to the Vercamp’s Visitor Center where we finished our booklets and toured the gift shop.

We wandered around to find a ranger for our badges but wasn’t resolved until a shuttle bus ride back to the RV and drive to the Canyon Village Visitor’s Center in the nick of time-they locked the doors for the day just as we entered.

Badges in hand and the sun setting we ate dinner and started out of the park.

Next stop the Petrified Forest!

 

Quadrennial

Linen, the recommended gift of a 4th anniversary. Ours is today. Four years since we tied the knot. Four years since we got hitched and attached the old ball and chain.

Sorry for the expressions but this year our wedding has as much meaning as it did the day we did it. Which we didn’t even want to do.
That doesn’t sound right… let me explain.

When we were younger and hadn’t yet met, we both explicitly did not want to get married. Neither of us wished for a family, a house or kids, none of it. I’ve explained this before but if you haven’t read it read it now.

I was never happier until I met him. He is kind. Gentle. Sweet. Strong. Silent. Safe. Everything I never thought I’d find attractive but even now after nine years together and four years married we still got it!

Whatever IT is.

It’s something different for every couple and for us it’s the look in our children’s’ eyes when they’re swinging on a swing. It’s the way their hair falls down their back after pulling out their ponytail. Their deep peaceful breaths as they sleep.

This bond of being parents together. Seeing each other love our kids and take care of them is part of the glue that holds us.

Then there are the other bonds… the ones that really keep us together. The ones I don’t wish to divulge on the world wide web.

Four years of celebrating our marriage. Four years of wearing these rings. These rings that symbolize our never-ending love and commitment.

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Something about wearing this thing on my finger makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Barbaric as it is; I am owned. Owned by my husband and kids but I choose to be owned. Owned by the love that we share and fills our home and hearts.

I wish EVERYone in the world could feel this feeling. It abounds and I can only thank God every single day that I am lucky in love. As well as thank Him, I pray to continue being graced by this glorious love and to keep my family forever.

Our wedding song, Forever and ever, Amen, is perfect because I have had some medical troubles where my hair falls out in clumps. Just last night on our anniversary I say, “I’m going bald” Darryl responds I’ll love you anyway, even if you’re bald. Our song specifically mentions aging and “I ain’t in love with your hair. If it all fell out, I’d love you anyway.”

I can only hope these past four years are a great indication for the next forty years and the forty after that.

I love looking back at our wedding photos and I hope you enjoy them too.

Happy Anniversary!

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A Grand Old Ride!

Friday September 19….Day 39

From Las Vegas we begin our journey back east and our first stop? The Grand Canyon.

I didn’t want to leave.

Today, we cleaned up and ate lunch before we left our campground. We drove until dinner and then again until we reached our current destination, Williams, AZ.

A railroad town, Williams is famous for the Grand Canyon Railway and our means to visit our nation’s biggest and most beautiful natural wonder.

A quiet small town, home to about 3,000 people most working in one of the several hotels, motels or restaurants catering to the tourists.

Williams is historically known for being the last town on Route 66. I-40 was built and opened around the town in 1984 and the world-famous Route 66 was decommissioned only the year after.

I’m reminded of Radiator Springs in one of our favorite animated movies. Shops and businesses bypassed by the big bad interstate. Sad, isn’t it?

Anyway, we got into Williams after dark and plugged into our campsite at the Grand Canyon Railway Campground. After the kids were tucked in, Darryl and I planned our attack on the canyon.

With a early morning approaching, we were quick to follow the kids to dreamland.

 

Saturday, Sept. 20….Day 40

This morning was the first morning in a very long time that I woke up before my kids. I rubbed my eyes, nursed the baby and off I went to the ticketing office-it was about a mile walk that was kindly cut in half by the shuttle for the complex. I hopped off, bought some juice and coffee from the GCR Hotel Café and waited in the morning sun for the Train Depot to open up at 7:30.

One of my favorite things about what we are doing is the people we meet.

We’ve bumped into all kinds of people from all walks of life. Most look at us with crazy eyes when they learn what we’re doing but some tell us how beautiful our family is or that they admire us to be out here for so long with so many kids being that we are so young. Some tell us to use birth control and others hand each one of the kids a $2 bill. I also love to talk to people who say “I’m one of five girls and I loved it” It’s amazing that we can brighten someone’s day just by walking past them because they see love and beauty and innocence in our children. We take them back to years past in their own lives and put a smile on their face.

As I waited, a gentleman was also standing at the doors and my ancient smart phone is still on Eastern time so to be sure I asked him what time it was. In his slow southern drawl he spoke “7:26” And I told him about my phone and the time change. Having been from the same time zone he asked where I lived and I told him. I reciprocated the friendly banter and he’s from Nashville. I was enthralled because Darryl and I had just discussed wanting to go to Nashville. He told me all about it and recommended some great spots.

I love meeting new people! You’ll usually always get the best of strangers especially when they’re on vacation. Only, he wasn’t.

We continued our friendly chat and I learned he was travelling alone.

To the Grand Canyon.

See, he’s a bus driver- a tour bus driver and while the Zach Brown Band finish up two shows in Atlanta before flying to California he has an empty bus and some free time to fulfill a dream of his, to see the Grand Canyon.

I’m delighted for him!

We packed lunch, snacks and a lot of cold water. Grabbed the diapers and a couple of strollers, then got the crew back up to the depot for the wild west shootout just feet from where we board the train.

 

At 9:30 we were leaving the station and on our way to the Grand Canyon.

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The two-hour ride was enjoyable with the scenery and western performers passing through the cars.

Juniper even got to help with the fiddle.

We were prepared with our snacks and books to keep the kids busy but they did pretty well just looking out the window.

When we reached the end of our 65 mile ride we thought we had a good plan of action for the four hours until our return train home but the visit proved to be nothing more than a quick stop in a visitor’s center for our JR booklets and about 10 minutes at Powell Point, one of the gorgeous viewpoints from the south rim. The other 3 hours and 20 minutes was spent shuffling on and off shuttle buses folding and unfolding strollers and waiting for the next ride because the first one or two were full. In fact, waiting for our first shuttle cut 30 minutes off our already short day and we spent it just sitting around.

The shuttles come every 10-15 minutes and it’s a sense of urgency radiating from the crowd of tourists who think nothing of trampling past my two-year old to make it aboard the bus as if it’s the last bus and their last chance to see anything; ever.

I digress. We waited and waited and the third bus was the charm. We rode to the transfer to get on another bus to travel the Hermit’s Rest route and again had to let the first shuttle pass by.

We arrived to Powell Point about an hour after arriving in the park. We sat and looked out over this cavernous masterpiece while we ate lunch.

Storm clouds loomed in the distance and before long we heard and saw thunder and lightning. So, we started to walk back to the shuttle stop.

Another hour passed before we made it to the Canyon Visitor’s Center where everyone used the restroom, Dogwood ate and we found out we had to attend a ranger’s program to earn our badges.

But we only had one hour left to catch our train or be stranded here. We could walk the 65 miles back home or take a $165.00 taxi ride or just sleep in the woods without a permit and be fined for doing so.

We cut our losses , shuttled back to the train depot and decided to come back up the next day in our RV and get to do all we wanted to while we’re here.

Our train ride home was a little less enjoyable. We ate what was left of our snacks and left our tummies grumbling. Oak was sleepy and our cars’ attendee’s jokes were getting old.

The fun wasn’t far down the track, though.

The shootout gang came aboard for an old-fashioned train robbery.

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As the actors perused the aisle some passengers handing them dollar bills most taking pictures. My kids?

Trembled with fear and tears in their eyes until I whisper to Lemon, “give him our banana peel.”

So, he comes to her, she smiles reaches in our snack bag and pulls out the peel. The entire car is in stitches.

And now our tears of fright have turned to tears from hysterical, uncontrollable laughter. Crisis averted!

When we got back to Williams, Lemon couldn’t stop laughing and talking about the banana peel-but we managed to play at the park for a bit while Papa Bear picked up Oliver from the kennel and went home for dinner.

Bellies full, we showered and went to bed with the sun after a long day exploring the Grand Canyon’s shuttle buses.

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Vegas Baby

If you don’t already know, this part of our road trip is the sole purpose for the WHOLE trip.

Ten years ago, we came to this very city and ate at this very restaurant to celebrate this very woman.

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My beautiful mother-in-law.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We met her and her husband at their hotel a few hours after their plane landed. Its been a long time since we’ve seen familiar faces and the kids gobbled their grandma right up.

I have a feeling we overwhelmed her a bit but there was no way to contain their excitement.

We shared dinner together at the Rainforest Café where I managed to score a souvenir t-shirt on the basis of the struggles accompanying nursing an infant on the go. Like, when your milk leaks unexpectantly in public on the rare day you forget to wear a nursing pad and there are telltale wet circles on your shirt – instead of wearing my baby carrier without the baby in it, Papa Bear insisted I replace my shirt on the spot to be more comfortable.

We walked to the Bellagio with our unsuspecting bystanders and after several minutes of just standing around on the street they begin, “are we going , soon?” and “this is boring just standing here.” Seconds later those same tired and bored eyes are bulging from their sockets and dumbfoundedness falls upon their sweet angelic faces.

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I think the show on my gorgeous (I’m biased) daughter’s’ faces is much more to see than some stuffy Bellagio…

It was beautiful.

Luckily we had rented a car for our time here in Las Vegas and we had something of a hustle bustle shuffle life, like at home in PA, for a couple days.

After saying goodnight to Grandma and Nagy Papa, we drove back to the campground and called it a night.

Wednesday September 17…. Day 37

Today is the day of our birthday celebration. We made our way back to the strip and the MGM Grand to meet Grandma and Nagy Papa where we toured some hotels on our walk to Mandalay Bay and the Shark Reef Aquarium of predators. WE saw piranha and sharks among many other aquatic killers.

The girls really like the stingrays.

After our walk back to their hotel, we cleaned up and piled into our rented minivan to drive to the Venician for dinner.

We ate and talked with aunts and uncle and enjoyed a nice meal as a family.

After cake and several trips bringing little bladders to the bathroom it was time again to say goodnight.

The restaurant photos are courtesy of Nagy Papa.

Thursday Sept. 18….Day 38

Early to rise and off to drop our house at a local Dealer because our front slide motor is fried. It’s one headache after another with this hunk of plastic and particle board.

Anyway, after we dropped of our garbage heap of an RV we met Grandma and Nagy Papa at the Hoover Dam.

We didn’t go on the dam tour but we did walk around the dam museum, dam gift shop, dam observation deck and had fun learning about the electricity, generators and that it cost more money to divert the mighty Colorado River than to build the Hoover Dam.

I found it interesting to learn 96 people died constructing the dam and newspapers clippings detailing the deaths were quite colorful, siting electrocution and being crushed by a boulder.

It sparked the thought that in all great things there comes great sacrifice. I’m reminded of the Great Pyramids, the Parthenon and the Colloseum – all great feats of mankind, I’m sure took hundreds if not thousands of lives to their end. ..and such is life.

Well, after all the dam fun we said our final goodbyes as they had an early flight back east in the morning and we had to get our home, slide still out of commission. We spent one final night in the city because on Friday, we’re leaving Las Vegas.

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