our trip to south dakota: life on the frontier.

As much as I'd hoped the kids would sleep in after their late night arrival at Todd's parents' house, they were up EARRRRLY.  Which ended up working out okay, I guess, since we had a full day ahead of us.

After breakfast, Atticus got right down to business acclimating to life on the frontier.  It turned out he was a quick study.

The life of the frontiersman is full of hardship, toil, simple pleasures, and ATV's of all sizes.

The boys clearly take helmet safety very seriously.

They rode up into the woods with Papa Tony, and found a few cool and stinky treasures!

The girls didn't miss out on their opportunity to explore the untamed West, either. 

The wind started a fight with their hair, but in the end their hair won.  I think.  Perhaps there was no clear winner.

Even hardy pioneers have to eat sometimes, so the kids came in for a hearty (and PRETTY!) lunch.

Todd, on the other hand, chose slightly different vittles.  I'm pretty sure this is what Billy the Kid ate for lunch every day.  Pioneering is hard.

And what was Rocco up to this whole time, you ask?  He was sizing up his Papa Tony.

In the end, it was decided that there actually was room enough in this town for the both of them.

Then everyone napped (thank goodness!) and after dinner, we got up close and personal with the wildlife.  First, we were visited by four deer at dinner time.

"There's a deer just outside eating fruit from the orchard!"

Then we loaded into the van for a drive through Custer State Park.  We saw lots of deer, a few wild turkeys, and a herd of buffalo.

Also, this massive fella came lumbering out of the dark on our way home, so if you like reading this blog at all, you can thank your lucky stars that we saw him in time to slow down, or that might've been the end of my blogging days.  And my days in general.

It made me proud to be an American: to brave that frontier highway in a place where the buffalo roam free, and majestic, and a little idiotic, and pretty brazen about it all, just like its human American counterparts.  You guys, I AM that nighttime highway buffalo.  Heavy stuff.

our trip to south dakota: the badlands.

We hadn't been sure we'd make it to the entrance of the Badlands loop before sundown, since we had so much farther to drive before getting there than we've had in the past.  But in a weird 'silver lining' kind of way, the cold weather that had significantly shortened most of our stops earlier in the day was actually a blessing in that regard.  So we got there around the same time of day that we normally do - just in time to see the sun set over the mounds!

In a stroke of pure genius, Todd thought packing the tripod might be a good idea, so we could get the whole family in a couple of shots.  AND HECK YEAH IT WAS A GOOD IDEA.

Todd is so handsome, his face is hard to capture on film.  He just radiates this aura... it's hard to explain.

This is the third photo I'm posting of Todd jumping around.  I think you can gather that he really loves the Badlands.  I also love the Badlands, but I'm not a jumper.  I like to pretend it's mostly because I'm somehow always pregnant and holding a toddler, which just sets me up for jumping failure.  But if I'm being really honest, it's really because my heart just isn't in it.  And because my legs are like, "We get what you're trying to do here, but we're not on your team."  So I do my best to just stand there... but like, enthusiastically.

As always, it was such a great, worthwhile detour.  While this year's drive through the loop wasn't as eventful as prior trips through (like the year Finneas pooped his pants and then took a very majestic al fresco potty break, or last year, when Penelope was flat-out traumatized by the weather), it was as beautiful ever.

our trip to south dakota: getting there.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!  Not sure what your plans are, but mine involve hanging around the house in my pajamas and desperately attempting to overcome raging pregnancy heartburn.  Just like BeyoncĂ© is probably doing today.

IF I was trying to kid you into thinking that this is an out-of-the-ordinary way to spend my time, I'd probably attempt to convince you it's because I need a low-key day after last week's vacation.  That's right, we were gone most of the week - we took our annual road trip up to see Todd's parents in the Black Hills!

We left earrrrrrly Saturday morning.  6:00 a.m. to be exact.  Which means I was up at 4:30 a.m.  I think the last time I was up for the day at 4:30 a.m. was when I was in the middle of labor with Atticus.  So it's been kind of a while.  And while this time around was no "birthing a baby at 4:30," it was still 4:30 and still unpleasant.  So, by the time we hit Kansas City, I was already in full-on nap mode.  Todd was kind enough to snap a few photos for the memory album.  "Hey kids, remember that one time Mom looked dead and also angry at the same time?"

The kids ate breakfast in the car.

I had planned and planned and planned for our trip, but one thing I failed to consider was that we were taking this particular trip over a month earlier in the summer than we normally do.  And while it's already in the 80's and humid here in Missouri, it is not so much in South Dakota.  Or anywhere along the way.  IT. WAS. FREEZING.  So all of those fun park and playground stops I had planned into our itinerary were bordering on miserable.  For me, anyway.  The kids still had a good time.

Our 'lunch' stop was supposed to be at like 2:00 at Falls Park, but it was seriously so cold and rainy there, we just got out long enough to put on coats and snap a few photos, then we got back in the warm van and tried to figure out what to do next.

I was so outrageously exhausted, and starving (and dealing with the resulting insulin swings), and sore, and just all around pregnant that we were bordering on a Mom meltdown.  I have always been so in love with my husband, but I'm not sure I've ever been as in love with him as I was the moment he found a Pizza Ranch nearby.

Laurelai's blurry, yellowed face basically sums up how we all felt about being there and finally getting some lunch at around 3:30.

With bellies full of warm, carby food, the little kids all napped in the car after that, PRAISE THE LORD!!!

Our last official stop was just a few hours later at a drive-in diner in Murdo.  Since we had just had a pretty huge meal not too long before, I only ordered the kids some shakes and fries.  While I was inside ordering (and using their restroom because preggos pee a LOT, did you know that??), Todd let the kids run off some steam in a nearby field.

And from there, we headed through the Badlands loop, which I'll tell you all about tomorrow!

what was up (last) weekly.

I never did a W.U.W. post last Friday, mainly because I spent all of last week packing and preparing for this week's VACATION!  We've been gone all week, and I'll tell you all about it next week!

So, for today, let's rewind the tape, and cover what didn't get covered when my road trip series was reposting.

That weekend, the kids all came down with some mysterious virus.  Friday night, Atticus came inside and all of a sudden started yelling that his head was hurting, and he started spiking a fever.  So I laid him on the couch with an ice pack on his head, he fell asleep and slept through the night.  Saturday afternoon, the same thing happened to Finneas - sudden headache, sudden fever, suddenly very sleepy.  And then Penelope fell victim to the exact same symptoms.  Sunday morning, Laurelai got it, too.  It was so. very. weird.  Other than a fever, headache, and loss of appetite, nothing was really wrong with them.  No barfing or sore throats or coughs or anything.  They just kind of slept it off, and twenty-four hours later, they were fine.

It made for kind of a weird Mother's Day, but maybe it was a perfect Mother's Day - because it was so intensely true.  It wasn't some weird, out-of-the-ordinary day where I was showered with all kinds of luxurious but fleeting respite from real life.  I had to miss church, I stayed in my jammies all day, and I snuggled with all my bugs.  We watched movies and I folded laundry.  And it was nice.

(And Mother's Day didn't come completely devoid of perks - Todd gifted me a "C" charm for my necklace.  It had already held all the kids' initials except for Callista's, and that needed to be remedied!  And he wrote the sweetest cards - one from himself, and one from the kids on which they all wrote their names.  Laurelai's alphabet knowledge is still pretty limited, but she can recognize (and form) "L"s, so her signature looks like, "L*****L***," where the asterisks are rando scribbles.  It was the cutest thing I've ever seen.)

(In a strange turn of events, I am the only one in this photo who is NOT in jammies.  I really can't explain how this happened.)

Once Monday hit and the kids were feeling better, I got into intense 'vacation prep' mode.  I read once that you know you mother a large family when you spend more days packing for vacation than you do actually going on vacation.  That was true this year, for sure!  Grocery shopping, chiro visits, running errands, washing and vacuuming out the van, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, cleaning out the fridge, posting blogs ahead, and actually packing for the trip completely dominated the week.  BUT WE ALSO DID SCHOOL!  I was exhausted, but I felt so accomplished at life, like I'm now qualified for the Iditarod or something.  (Just as the sled guy, not a dog.   I'm not that accomplished.)

And other than that, it was a pretty run-of-the-mill week.  The kids spent a ton of time outside in the 85-degree weather, getting farmer tans and bug bites.  May I remind you that it is mid-May?  May I also remind you that I LOVE MISSOURI?!?!?  However, with it being so hot and not having rained much recently, and with the kids insistent upon gradually tilling every inch of our topsoil with various crude tools, our yard is dusty.  I kind of lost my mind a little when EVERY. SINGLE. DAY I would look out the window to find them having 'dirt fights,' leaving them grey from head to toe.  It was so bad, I made them dump their clothes in the garage, where I also made them take 'prelim' baths in a big bucket of soapy water, and then from there I made them come inside for actual tub baths.  And the water was still black at the end of the second bath.  They didn't seem to be as bothered by the whole process as I was.

And here I find myself, counting down ON A SINGLE HAND the number of weeks I have left (and keep in mind, this photo is a week late).  I am RUNNING OUT OF TIME!!!!!  I am seriously in a panic.

And Todd took some really pretty belly shots, when the light was coming in the window all perfect and sun-spotty and soft and romantic... And yet, this one is my very favorite shot of all of them, because it totally reminds me of how Finneas thinks Callista will be born.  I did briefly give a general overview to him when he asked about the process - the uterus was explained, the concept of the birth canal was introduced quickly, and then at the end of it all, he was like, "THE BABY COMES OUT OF YOUR VAGINA?!?! ... No.  No.  That can't be right. It shoots out of your belly like a rocket."  And I was all, "Sure.  You believe what you need to right now, buddy."

 Blast off in T minus five weeks and counting...