Monday, June 30, 2014

On The Road: Day One

How we roll.

The first day into our grand adventure the goal was to reach our hotel in South Dakota.  We had quite a few miles to put behind us and the scenery made the drive even more enjoyable.  

We stopped for gas a couple of times and then again at the entrance to Martin's Cove in Wyoming to get a picture near Devil's Gate (the break in the rocks in the background) and to stretch our legs a bit.

One of our favorite things about Wyoming was the gorgeous sunset that just seemed to get better and better as the sun sank lower into the distance. I wish I could have taken a picture to match what we actually saw but the camera just couldn't do the colors justice.

As we traveled on we were treated to a brilliant lightning storm that continued to wow us throughout the night as it lit up various sections of the clouds or sky in flashes of white and blue.

We arrived at our hotel in the wee hours of the morning and were pleasantly surprised at the warm reception we received by the owner.  As I checked in he let me know that he has turned on the air conditioners in our rooms to cool them down before we had arrived.  He also noticed that there were 2 adults and 8 children and so, assuming we were all one family, we had adjoining rooms on the first floor.  After some excitement from the kids over having televisions and refrigerators in our rooms we all fell asleep within minutes.

As we slept, the storm that had surrounded us along our drive caught up to us and we woke the next morning to overcast skies and a gentle rain. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Our Trip To Everywhere

Sometime around Christmas or so we decided to take a big family trip this summer.  We knew that Thumbelina would be leaving for college and that she could possibly be enrolled in summer semester, so we planned it for the first 3 weeks of the summer.  We put it on the family calendar so that nothing else would be planned during that time and told the kids to start researching places they would like to go located east of Utah so they could put in requests for stops.

We traveled through each of the colored-in states above, starting in Utah and going in rainbow color order until you end up in Utah again. For the most part, what a fantastic vacation it was!

Before leaving we came up with an itinerary which included the distance and amount of time we would be on the road on traveling days.

Before leaving I made each of the kids a travel bag filled with things to keep them busy, along with a few treats and a pair of dollar store sunglasses.  They got a blank copy of the map above so they could color in each state as we passed through it as well as one of various travel games that I printed off and laminated so they could write on them with dry-erase marker and then trade them with someone else once they were done.  Each bag had a dry-erase board and a travel journal (thank you dollar store!) so that each of them could have a place to write things down either temporarily or permanently along the way.

As a family we completed the license plate game once by the time we got to New York (thank you random driver with Hawaii plates in Palmyra!) and all but finished it again by the time we got home (still searching for Hawaii plates to finish out round two).

One of the best ideas I got (shout out to my friends Jes and Anita!) was to have a mini-version of our van inside the van, moving along a string to show how close we were to our destination. The kids NEVER ONCE asked "Are we there yet?"  The only thing they would say sometimes was, "Do you need to move the little van?" So I'd move it and they would all cheer and then they were content with having a visual reference of how much closer we were to arriving somewhere for the day.

The first picture is kind of like playing I-Spy, do you see our little van?

Here it is up close.

Once the van reached the end of the string we were done driving for the day. Totally brilliant.

Everyone's favorite game was what we called The List Game.  I found simple picture lists online for the smaller kids (find certain road signs, a tree, a dog, a flag, etc.) and made a super long, challenging list for the oldest kids:

Even Little X was able to complete the picture lists and he would get excited to cross things off as he spotted them.  Cowgirl was the first to finish the difficult list.  It required 3 days of constant searching. When the other kids saw that she got her own package of goldfish crackers for this task they were suddenly all much more interested in accomplishing it themselves.  (No one else ever completed it, but it was great to get them looking out their windows!)

Thumbelina graduated on a Wednesday and we started our trip the next morning. This meant that everyone missed the last two days of school, which, as we all know, was no big deal.

Rather than make this a way-too-long post, I plan to give each destination its own page over the next couple of weeks.

Our first stop?  South Dakota!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Adorable Senior

Thumbelina graduated from high school on May 28th. We are so proud of our senior!  Prior to graduation we had my awesome and talented friend Trish take her senior pictures.  What do you think?

Cutest senior I ever saw!

She was so excited about this idea of making her senior pictures creative that we did a double-sided announcement.  One side was the photo above and the other was the photo below with all of her graduation details included.  Isn't she a beauty?


I let her choose the pictures for the announcement, and the sideways one was great for adding wording next to her cute mug, but these two are probably my favorites:

I can not believe this girl is old enough to be leaving home and starting college.  My babies are growing up faster than I can keep up with and it's a tough thing.  But man, oh man am I one proud mama when it comes to this girl and her talents and abilities!  She's going to do just fine.