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.

 

This Grand Adventure

When I became pregnant with my first child, my husband and I fully intended to submerse our children into our world and our lifestyle. Before I had children I loved to travel, hike, go to concerts, attend estate sales and create art.

I imagined a life of going to a Jack Johnson concert with a baby strapped to my chest as my husband and I sang along to Bubble Toes. I pictured us traveling around the world stopping in at cafes to give the babies biscuits and croissants. I knew there would be long hikes with a kid strapped to my husband’s back as we crossed streams and climbed over rocks. And there was no doubt in my mind that the kids and I would spend long Saturdays going from estate sale to estate sale buying used furniture that we could go home and sit together and refurbish.

Me hiking through the mesa in Albuquerque, NM

Me hiking through the mesa in Albuquerque, NM

Me hiking the Jemez Mountain...notice my shirt is wet in really great places...I had just got done swimming in hot springs

Me hiking the Jemez Mountains…notice my shirt is wet in really great places…I had just got done swimming in hot springs

Our dreams were quickly dashed when our new darling arrived and immediately hated car rides. Instead of being a soothing experience that put her into a calm trance she screamed like a banshee. As soon as you strapped her into that car seat she acted like a holy terror and there was nothing you could do to get her to stop. A drive across town with her felt like an eternity so our plans of going to a music festival 3 hours away were certainly not in the cards.

An Eric Clapton concert my husband and I went to before kids

An Eric Clapton concert my husband and I went to before kids

We had front row seats at a Keb' Mo concert

We had front row seats at a Keb’ Mo concert

My husband and I at a Dave Matthews concert

My husband and I at a Dave Matthews concert

I however did tote my new baby along to estate sales. She rested comfortably strapped to the front of my chest. In recent years she has become somewhat of a minor celebrity at these gigs because she has been coming with me for so long. However, these were never all day endeavors. We could only go to one and then be home for nap time. The people at these things don’t even know I have three kids because there is no way I would bring 2 rambunctious boys to a house filled with expensive breakables. They are too much of a liability.

I did take my kids hiking once by myself. My daughter was 4 years old and my middle son was 2 years old. There is a great wooded area with paths not too far from our house. I loaded them up and gave them each a plastic bag to collect treasures and told them we were going on a grand adventure. It seemed to be going very well and then about an hour into our hike with no other people in sight my son fell. No, he didn’t trip and skin his knee. He fell down an embankment. A four and a half foot drop covered by plant growth. My daughter and I couldn’t even see him but we sure could hear his screams. My daughter immediately began screaming at the top of her lungs, “My brother’s dead! My brother’s dead!” I jumped down to save my son and got him hoisted back up to safety. He was fine besides a few scratches. The true problem came in when I needed to get out. Since I am only 5 feet tall I couldn’t just lift myself out of this ditch. It was a straight shot down and there was nothing to hold onto or dig my feet into. I struggled and struggled to get out. Both kids were trying to pull me by my hands which of course were no help. I’m still not quite sure how I got out of there but somehow I manage to get my leg swung over and kind of launched myself out. Needless to say we immediately headed back to the car and have not been back there since.

The kids all ready to start their grand hiking adventure

The kids all ready to start their grand hiking adventure

The embankment my son fell down

The embankment my son fell down

In the past 7 ½ years of being a parent we have not traveled internationally, we have hiked once, the only concerts we have been to are the ones my children perform in at school, we do not go to estate sales as a family and most of the art we create includes paper and glitter.

I have been submersed into the life of my children. The life of playgrounds, naps, goldfish crackers, play-doh and crayons is really not that bad and it is incredibly safer.  The only embankments I have had to try to climb out of are the stacks of dirty laundry and dishes and clearly that that is just a metaphor. A metaphor never hurt anybody.  Plus this life with kids is a grand adventure!