Bad To the Bone

On our recent vacation we made a conscious decision to drive the more scenic routes, to take our time and really enjoy all that our beautiful country has to offer. I really wanted it to be a fun trip and at the same time educational for my kids.

A prime example of one of these scenic routes was the choice to drive through Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Talk about breathtaking! This was by far my favorite sightseeing stop on our trip.

The Badlands is 244,000 acres of eroded sedimentary layers of rock formations and canyons. There is a road going through the whole park but many places to get out, stop and explore. If I had to estimate how long it takes to drive through the park I would guess 20 minutes. My family spent 2 hours here. I actually would have loved to stay longer and done some of the more extensive hiking trails but I didn’t want to push my luck with three small kids.

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driving through Badlands National Park

I got a little giddy when we got out the first time and saw this sign:

Beware! Rattlesnakes!

I am crazy for nature and animals in their natural environments and would have loved to see a rattlesnake!

The park is home to other wildlife as well. Bison, pronghorn, mule, deer, prairie dogs, coyotes and eagles can often be seen by visitors. In this area many fossils have also been recovered of ancient camels, three-toed horses, saber-toothed cats and giant rhinoceros-like creatures.

Here are some of the pictures we took while there:

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Throughout the entire drive I was making audible gasps and squealing like a little school girl pointing things out. My husband also shared in my excitement. The kids however were a different story. They weren’t exactly yawning but their eyes certainly were not transfixed out the window and responding with excitement to everything I pointed to.

They did however like the times when we got out of our van and got to explore:

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We found one flowering cactus in the park! The kids thought that was super cool!

We found one flowering cactus in the park! The kids thought that was super cool!

And the very best thing we saw just as we were about to get to the end of the park was this:

A goat high up on one of the canyons

A goat high up on one of the canyons

Like I said before, Badlands National Park was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. There is no doubt in my mind though that it’s beauty was completely lost on my kids. As proof, about an hour later, driving down a regular highway, my 6 year old son, Bency shouts out, “Wow, look at that beautiful mountain!” I just happened to have the camera in my hand and caught a shot of what he was exclaiming about:

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My husband and I looked at each other and shook our heads in dismay. We had just seen some of the most beautiful rock formations and views and this little hill has our son all jigged up.

 

1 Year Blog Anniversary and a Giveaway!

This past Saturday marked the 1 year anniversary of this little ol’ blog called Motherhood Is An Art.

I do believe that calls for a woot! woot! and some appreciation to everyone who reads and follows me. I am very sincere when I say that I am very thankful to people who stop on by and take their time to read. I have met some of thee coolest people through blogging.

To show my appreciation I am not only sharing a recent children’s book I wrote for my children (based off an event that actually happened that I greatly exaggerated) but I am also giving a copy away to one lucky reader! All you have to do to be entered to win is leave a comment at the bottom of the page indicating that you would like a copy. The other option is to leave a comment on my Facebook page which you can join by clicking on the Facebook “like” button on the right hand side of the page! In one week I will announce the winner!

Without further ado….here is the book I wrote and illustrated:

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A mom and her three kids were driving in their van one bright, sunny day. They had the windows rolled down and were singing along to their favorite songs on the radio.

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All of a sudden, Mom heard a low grunting noise coming from the back seat. The noise grew into louder growls and roars. The mom found herself slightly panicked that her three children had been replaced by lions…

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or bears…

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or wart hogs.

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After a quick check in the rearview mirror the mystery was solved when she discovered that the two older children were bickering and arguing at an escalating volume. She turned down the radio and that is when the girl exclaimed, “Brother is emptying my bucket!”

The mom quickly fired back in a panicked tone, “What bucket? Who brought a bucket in the van? What was in the bucket?”

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Mom knew how much her kids loved to put stuff in buckets. She began to imagine hundreds of worms being spilled into the van…

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or possibly hundreds of roly-poly bugs…

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or a bucket full of ants.

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Would they have brought a bucket of water in the van…

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or gooey mud and leaves?

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After trying to steal glances over her shoulder and not seeing anything; the mom asked again about the contents of the bucket that the brother emptied.

The girl explained that in her Life Skills class at school, her teacher told them we all have an imaginary bucket inside of us. When someone does or says something mean to us; it empties our bucket.

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The girl said her bucket was getting emptied when her brother told her that she had dragon breath.

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The mom immediately told her son to apologize to his big sister. He also had to come up with one compliment to help fill her “bucket” back up.

He told his sister he was sorry and then he told her she was as cool as a two-headed frog. In other words he thought his sister was pretty awesome!

 

I Think We Entered the Twilight Zone

Memories are a funny thing.

It’s not always the best, most pleasant occurrences that stick with us; that lodge themselves deep inside our brain. Often times it’s something shocking, absurd and downright frightening that we seem to latch onto forever.

We had one of those moments on our recent cross-country trip. Even though we experienced plenty of really cool, beautiful things this is the memory that I know will be engrained in our minds as one of the “highlights.”

We were driving down the highway mid afternoon somewhere in South Dakota. No houses were in sight and very little traffic. Every little bit we would see some grazing land with a few beef cattle roaming in the distance. Out of nowhere we noticed a sign in the distance stating there was a general store at the next exit selling buffalo jerky. My husband is a big fan of dried meat so we decided to pull off and visit the shop.

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The place was called Buffalo Ridge General Store. As we stepped out we noticed things weren’t exactly in pristine condition. The building was a bit dilapidated and there was no other vehicles in the parking lot. However, we forged on with our mission to get some buffalo jerky for my husband.

The front of the store

The front of the store

As we entered the store I was dumbstruck. It appeared as though we had exited the year 2013 and were catapulted into a time warp from 1978. The merchandise scattered here and there had a thick layer of dust on it. Everything was dirty including the floors and shelves. I really had to go to the bathroom but there was no way I was going to explore the facilities that were located right up front with the door half off it’s hinges and the words “Bathroom” painted on in crude handwriting.

There was even a pay phone in the store for their patrons use! Who still has a payphone??

There was even a pay phone in the store for their patrons use! Who still has a payphone??

Two men greeted us. One was fairly old and the other was middle-aged. I’m assuming they were father and son. They were very friendly and asked where we were from. When we told them Wisconsin, they wanted to talk football and we enjoyed some banter with them for a bit. On the counter in front of them sat a bin of packaged buffalo jerky. We inquired about it and they told us that they make it themselves and that it’s the best around. We purchased $20 worth. The men then motioned to another door and told us there was another room that the kiddos might enjoy.

Here is what we saw when we entered:

Well, isn't this special?

Well, isn’t this special?

It appears that it is just another room filled with more merchandise that they are trying to peddle. Tucked away though in various corners of the room were life-size animated figures behind cages. When you put a quarter in the slot the rooms would light up, the figures would move and a recorded commentary or music would come on.

Here is an old saloon set-up:

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There was also one with a man tanning buffalo hide:

Notice the layers of dust on this guy!

Notice the layers of dust on this guy!

I think Iris is saying, "I can't believe we paid a quarter to see this!"

I think Iris is saying, “I can’t believe we paid a quarter to see this!”

And then we found the icing on the cake:

This one played creepy music and the gorilla's eyes lit up red.

This one played creepy music and the gorilla’s eyes lit up red.

The gorilla guy is quite possibly one of the freakiest things I have ever seen. I also think he scarred my children for life. Notice the looks on their faces while they are watching him:

Cesar is thinking, "No 2 year old should be subjected to something this scary."

Cesar is thinking, “No 2 year old should be subjected to something this scary.”

Bency is saying, "I am going to have nightmares the rest of my life."

Bency is saying, “I am going to have nightmares the rest of my life.”

It’s safe to say that Buffalo Ridge General Store is like nothing I have ever experienced. It will be a memory I will carry with me until my dying day. It’s not just due to the bizarre, off the wall nature of the store itself either. It’s because 3 hours down the road, my husband asked me to crack open that bag of buffalo jerky I purchased so he could give it a try. As I began to search the car I realized I didn’t have it. I must have set it down to put a quarter in one of those crazy animated shows and forgot it. My husband will never let me live that one down.

The buffalo pasture adjacent to the store.

The buffalo pasture adjacent to the store.

Bull Head, A Highway in the House and So Much Blue

There’s nothing like a long vacation that puts me in the mood for working my patootie off!

I have been in almost constant motion since we set foot back on our homestead. Today had me in a particularly high speed whirl as I did a complete makeover on our back porch. Can anyone guess how much a complete makeover of a back porch costs? Anyone? Anyone? Well, the answer is a big ol’ nothing! Yes, that’s right, it cost zero dollars to give a fresh look to our forlorn little porch!

Before I do the big reveal I have to show you two other projects.

While we were in New Mexico the past few weeks I attended a few garage sales and a flea market. I know, I’m on vacation and can still not get away from my scavenger hunt addiction.

The first project is actually courtesy of my husband. He had been looking for a bull skull while we were on vacation and many of them were very costly. However we finally found one at a flea market for $20 but someone had painted it and it was extremely ugly in my opinion:

That's one ugly bull head!

That’s one ugly bull head!

I told my husband he should get it though at that price and we could spray paint it. My husband set to work yesterday and here is the finished result:

A new piece of art for our living room!

A new piece of art for our living room!

The next project was one that I did yesterday. I had found an old highway sign at the same flea market. It is New Mexico’s Highway 25 which is one of the major highways in the state. I absolutely love old rustic things so this was right up my alley. It was really dirty though but what can you expect when you only pay $15:

Old highway sign

Old highway sign

I cleaned it up with a soapy water and a toothbrush and then I varnished the whole thing. It now hangs in my kitchen:

 

My new kitchen art

My new kitchen art

Unfortunately I don’t have a before picture of my porch to show you but trust me it was bad! It is actually one of the most used spaces when we have company so it really deserved to be spruced up. As I said before the redo cost nothing except my time and a really sore back right now. I already owned the porch swing, the old table and the old rocking chair. The rest of the furniture was found on the side of the road recently all ready to be brought to the dump. I think I really scored. Plus the paint I used was from our local recycling center that you can get free paint from that people have brought in that can no longer use it. So I spent a good portion of the day painting all of this furniture. Both of my older kids helped out too. My son painted the legs of the table and my daughter painted two wooden stools and a children’s table and chair that we have had for quite some time that I had picked up at the thrift store. Here is how it all turned out:

Iris hard at work painting

Iris hard at work painting

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I hope everyone has a wonderful 4th of July! We will be celebrating with a cookout with family and relaxing on our back porch!

Melissa

 

 

No, I Am Not in the Loony Bin

Have you ever wondered what the recipient must feel like that gets a Nobel Peace Prize or an Academy Award placed into their hands?

I have an inkling what this must feel like.

No, I don’t have a shiny trophy to place on my mantel but I do have my sanity.

I survived a 3 week cross-country driving trip, clocking over 3,500 miles, with my husband and 3 children. In my eyes, accomplishing this and maintaining a semi-normal mental health status ranks right up there with having a prestigious award bestowed upon me.

Don’t get me wrong; things weren’t always ideal. Thoughts of leaving a child or two along the side of the highway did take up fleeting moments in my mind. Overall though, things went smooth and most importantly we all lived to tell our version of our family’s 1st major vacation together.

I wish I could say this is what the whole car ride looked like but it didn't!

I wish I could say this is what the whole car ride looked like but it didn’t!

Two weeks of our trip was spent at my mother-in-law’s house in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We also attended a family reunion in Las Vegas (not the glitzy, casino-flooded city but a small town in New Mexico). There had to be around 600 people in attendance at this 3 day affair. I think it’s safe to assume my husband’s side of the family is very fertile! The other week of our trip revolved around traveling from our home in Wisconsin to New Mexico and back again. We made many stops at various landmarks and did a lot of really cool things.

Despite all of the sight-seeing, my family all agreed that the best part of the trip was spending time with our kinfolk in Albuquerque. I come from a small family compared to my husband, so the chance to have my husband’s 7 other sisters and brothers, their spouses and tons of kids of various ages running around is like having a party all of the time.

This is only my husband's immediate family in attendance at the reunion. There was about 7 more groups there this same size or bigger!

This is only my husband’s immediate family in attendance at the reunion. There was about 7 more groups there this same size or bigger! My family and I are on the far right.

We took over 3,000 pictures on this vacation so in the coming weeks I’m sure I will be sharing more highlights. Right now, I have to get back to unpacking, laundry and all of the other stuff that goes along with being away from your home for 3 weeks. I just wanted to say hi to everyone, let you know you were all missed and I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things in the blogging world!

Lots of love,

Melissa