I do believe Levi and I have just about completed our nursing relationship. After he turned a year old we had whittled our nursing sessions down to just at bed time. It was our special little routine. Now though if I offer he turns his head away and shakes it no. Got the message kid, thanks. And I have to admit that this change has thrown our whole bedtime routine into ruins. I think Levi is going to be a daddy’s boy. When Kris leaves for work and Levi notices, Levi is instantly sad. We watched Kris leave last night on the motorcycle and as I closed the door Levi crumpled. Luckily it didn’t last too long as at 15 months old (today!) he is still easily distractable. But bedtime is a problem right now. I like putting him to bed in the evenings. It’s my special one on one cuddle time with him. But now he kicks and arches and screams and refuses his pacifier and all attempts to soothe him. The past couple nights I’ve done what I could then put him in his bed screaming and sat back for a few minutes. At that point I can go pick him up (he’s usually still crying but not screaming) and we can cuddle for a few minutes before I put him back in his bed. He’s usually not asleep at this point, although sometimes he conks out during our rocking and cuddling, and he goes to sleep peacefully on his own. We’re finding our new normal for bedtime. What does this have to do with him being a daddy’s boy? Because when Levi starts screaming like that Kris can walk in, take him from me and Levi will instantly settle down, snuggle into Kris and go to sleep on his own. Every. Single. Time. I don’t mind him being a daddy’s boy. I just don’t like the screaming and rejection. Twerp. I have to keep battling him and getting him into a new routine though because Kris does work at night and I should have Levi in bed sleeping before Kris gets home. Plus, this fall Kris will be taking a class a couple nights a week and will miss bedtime completely. Levi and I have to figure this out. Of course last night as I’m trying to put Levi to bed he’s kicking and arching and screaming and nothing I’m doing is working and then I offer him some milk and he immediately calms down and nurses. Of course then he wanted to nurse himself into a deep sleep and when I didn’t go for that there was more screaming and kicking. Ah well. We’ll figure this out. We did last night with him once again going to sleep peacefully. It just took a little while to figure everything out. Transitions are always hard, aren’t they?
OK, so the only big thing I haven’t recapped during my month+ long hiatus was our family vacation to South Dakota. Originally we had planned to be gone from Sunday July 3rd to Saturday July 9th. However, Kris was taking an anatomy class this summer (and his final scores is a 696.75 out of 700 points…because he is just that awesome!) and he had a lab test the Wednesday of that week. It could not have been more inconvenient. A test. 9 hours away. In the middle of the week of our week long vacation. We fretted for a couple weeks about what to do. Cancel the trip entirely? Cut it way short? Try to reschedule it? We just didn’t know. Plus, we were going on the trip with Nana and Papa and Papa had horse judging duties on Saturday the 2nd and Sunday the 10th so we couldn’t move the vacation very far on either end. We were a bit stuck. I think we found a great solution though. We moved the whole thing up one day so that we left on Saturday the 2nd. We drove to Sioux Falls, SD and stayed overnight there and met Nana and Papa there. We stayed in a hotel with a pool and while Levi napped I took Annika and James down to the pool where they swam their little hearts out until Nana and Papa arrived. We took off Annika’s life jacket at one point so she could play in the pool and try doing hand stands and somersaults and front floats. After swimming we cleaned up and walked to the restaurant next door. The kids ate a bunch and Levi charmed the table next to us. After dinner we settled everyone down and got ready for bed. Annika and James spent the night in Nana and Papa’s room which sounded good on paper because then Kris and I would only have one kid to worry about, right? Yeah, well, Levi had other ideas. It took us until 10pm that night to get him to settle down and go to sleep in his pack and play. I think us having the TV on, even though the volume was super quiet, was bothering him. I think the flashing, bright light of the TV was too stimulating. As soon as I turned off the TV, he settled down and went to sleep. He ended up sleeping really well that night which was good for us!
The next day, Sunday, we packed up and headed out, this time with one kid in Nana and Papa’s car and two with us. Let’s just say that the two older can’t fight if they’re not in the same car, right? Score! We had a pretty good drive that day. We stopped in Wall to see Wall Drug, of course and had lunch while we were there. We completely freaked out Annika and James with the large dinosaur that roars and steams every 15 minutes. James was ready to get back in the car and leave right then I think. Instead we found some stuff for him to climb on and he was good again. Once back on the road (with kids swapped between cars) we were headed for Rapid City. We did pretty well caravan’ing out there. It was until we were just on the outskirts of Rapid City that we got separated from Nana and Papa. This wouldn’t be a problem in the age of cell phones, right? Yeah, except ours (with Sprint service) had absolutely zero service over in this part of South Dakota. We couldn’t contact Nana and Papa even if we wanted to! Luckily we knew where we were staying and had directions so we just headed to the campground. Nana and Papa went into Rapid City and did a bit of grocery shopping and then went to the campground. We arrived at the campground first but only after heading down Iron Mountain Road to get there. Let’s just say that piggy tail bridges and mountain driving are not my favorite thing. I have a big fear of heights people. This was not good. We had James with us and he just loved the piggy tail bridges though. It was an adventure each and every time we went over one. I was driving at this point and I could feel the tension in my shoulders as I grabbed that steering wheel as hard as I could. I may have driven a bit slower than I needed but nothing bad was going to happen on my watch! Phew. I can feel the tension building again just talking about it. Don’t ever make me drive in real mountains, OK? But, we made it to our campground and as Kris checked in I took James and Levi to the campground playground to play. There was a small slide, some swings and other fun things to do there, like throw pea rock (naughty Levi!). It wasn’t too much after we were checked in and unloading our truck that Nana and Papa and Annika arrived. After we unloaded the other adults set out to make dinner over our campfire while I tried to keep Levi corralled in the cabin. We had rented a two bedroom cabin with a kitchenette and it was just perfect for us. The kids bedrooms was super tiny but had two bunkbeds in them which they loved. The back bedroom had a full size bed with just enough room to squeeze in the pack ‘n play. There was a full bathroom with a bathtub even. The small living area had a couch that folded out to a bed and there was a nice, private porch on the back. Our cabin was nestled back in the trees and stayed pretty cool with the near constant shade. The cabin did have an air conditioner which was appreciated too. It was very hot out there! After dinner we once again got everyone settled down for the night. Levi did a better job that night of settling down and going to sleep. I was still nursing him then and that constant routine helped I think.
Monday was a big tourist day. The first thing we did was go to Mount Rushmore. I haven’t been there since I was about Annika’s age. We were explaining who all the faces were and we walked part of the trail and heard a great Native American story about the area and history. We got a couple family pics (which Kris has his eyes closed in…OF COURSE), we rushed to find a potty (OF COURSE) and we generally just hung out and enjoyed the awesome view for a bit. On the way there we took the scary piggy tail bridge road again with Kris driving this time. That went better for me and we even got some great shots of Mount Rushmore through some of the tunnels and from an overlook. Overlooks, by the way? NOT FUN. I’m always afraid someone is going to fall or get too close to an edge for my comfort (which is about 10 feet) and they just generally make me anxious. Anyone surprised? Heh. There were some fun rocks to climb on though and I have some great pictures of Annika and Kris doing just that. I’ll work on getting the July photos posted next week so you can all see them too! (Tonight and this weekend are just way too busy to promise any pictures before next week.)
After Mount Rushmore, if I remember correctly we went back to the cabin and ate lunch. It’s been so long that this is getting fuzzy! We had intended for Levi to take a nap but that didn’t happen so Kris and I took all three kids down to the campground pool for a quick swim. It’s a good thing we put Levi’s life jacket on him the second we stepped into the fenced pool area because as we were helping Annika and James with their life jackets Levi took off and ended up in the pool by himself. Kris rescued him within seconds but we were both thanking our lucky stars we had that life jacket on him already! Twerp. The pool was pretty cold though and there was bad weather heading into the area (with a few lightning strikes off in the distance) so we didn’t stay in the pool too long. The kids did have fun squirting Kris with their water guns though. I may have egged that on a bit. Maybe. After our brief swimming excursion we loaded everyone up again so we could take a drive through Custer State Park on our way to Custer for dinner and fireworks. It was the 4th of July after all. We only saw one buffalo on our way through the park. It was a big bull and he was all by himself snacking on some foliage on the side of the road in a small clearing. He was a beautiful, massive beast though and the kids thought he was really cool. We also found the wild donkeys, prairie dogs and prong horned deer too. We walked out to see the prairie dogs closer and Annika got a little too close to one (10 feet or so away) and he started chirping at her. I took a quick video of that (which I’ll upload along with pictures next week). After our encounter with the wildlife we made our way to Custer. Custer is a cute little town and the kids had lots of fun counting all the buffalo statues on the main street. We ended up walking most of the main street until we found a restaurant that was #1 open and not crazy busy and #2 looked good. We found a good one though and had a fantastic meal. Levi was sick of sitting though after driving through the park and sitting in his stroller during our walk so Kris and I took turns chasing him through the restaurants gift shop area until our food arrived. After dinner we walked back to our vehicles and in an effort to get Levi to sleep we drove out to the Crazy Horse Memorial. It was getting late in the day and we didn’t want to pay the park entrance fee so we just admired the monument from the road. OF COURSE Levi didn’t go to sleep so we went back into town and while the rest of them went inside Dairy Queen for a treat, I sat in the truck and nursed Levi and got him to go to sleep. After our dessert we found a good spot in town to park and watch the fireworks. James was in Nana and Papa’s car at this time and Annika was with us. While we were waiting for the fireworks to start Annika was sitting on Kris’s lap in the drivers seat and they played Pictureka and Angry Birds and other games on the iPod Touch. Once the fireworks started Nana said that James was completely freaked out. I think the noise scared him. After he got used to them he was fine though. It was a pretty good fireworks show for being in small town South Dakota I thought! On our way back to the campground we drove straight through Custer State Park again. It was very dark in the park and we were on a constant look out for creatures big and small on the roadway. We came around one corner only to see a giant buffalo laying on the opposite side of the road lazily eating some grass. The silly thing was so close to the road that I swear his furry head was on the yellow line. Of course he’s also super dark in color and the only reason we saw him was that he looked up at us as we rounded the corner and his eyes caught our headlights. It startled Kris and he slowed way down to pass as did Nana and Papa behind us. We passed a few cars and motorcycles going the opposite way after our meeting with the buffalo and I wanted to stop each one and warn them of the buffalo right by the road, especially those motorcyclists! We found out the next morning at the campground gift shop that someone “bumped” a buffalo in the park that night. The car, people and buffalo were OK, thankfully. I think we know which buffalo that was!
Tuesday was half tourist day and half say goodbye to my babies day. Our solution to the test problem was for Kris, Levi and I to head back home on Tuesday afternoon so Kris would have time to study for his test at noon on Wednesday. And Annika and James would stay with Nana and Papa in South Dakota until the weekend. I hated leaving them there but I knew they would want to stay longer. Annika even told me she was happy to have some “alone time” with them without us. Thanks. Twerp. Anyway, Tuesday we packed everything up that we were bringing back with us and all of us drove up to Rapid City. There we went to the South Dakota School of Mines Museum of Geology. Dinosaurs! That’s what we were there for. James insisted on getting his picture taken with each dinosaur exhibit. And we looked at each and every display of rocks and minerals. I think all the kids really liked it. Levi liked it because we let him out of the stroller so he was a mad man that we took turns chasing around the museum. After we left there we found more dinosaurs at the Dinosaur Park. This is essentially just huge concrete structures of dinosaurs made to scale. The park is also on one of the tallest peaks in Rapid City and you can see 100 miles away on a clear day. The kids loved climbing on the dinosaurs and Annika was very busy making up stories and plays while climbing. After Dinosaur Park, we filled up with gas and kissed our two older kids good-bye (tearfully on my part, not there’s…twerps) and we headed home. Levi slept for a long time that afternoon and we made very good time back across South Dakota. There is one upside to traveling with a child in diapers – not as many bathroom stops! We made it back to Sioux Falls in time for dinner. And there we finally had cell phone coverage again. After dinner we kept driving and aside from one quick stop for a DQ treat, we drove all the way home, arriving about 10pm I think. Nana knew how upset I was at leaving my babies so far away from me and she was so, so wonderful about sending me e-mails with updates on what they were doing, even with pictures sometimes! I cherished getting those e-mails. Thank you Nana!
Wednesday they took another drive through Custer State Park and saw the donkeys again. This time they got to pet them even. And James and Annika had pet names for them and favorites of course. Then they went to Hill City to the mammoth exhibit. Thursday was a no drive day (the kids were getting tired of driving everywhere and Friday they would be heading back) so they stayed at the campground and played on the playground and swam in the swimming pool. I think they all enjoyed having a down day. Friday they packed up and started driving East again. They stopped overnight in Oacoma. The kids once again got to swim a bunch in the hotel pool. Saturday they continued to drive East and found their way to Windom where Nana and Papa would be staying as Papa was judging in Windom on Sunday. Kris drove down that evening and picked up the kids and drove them the rest of the way home. I stayed at home with Levi who was so sick of driving that he cried each time we put him in the truck after we got home that Tuesday. He’s better now again but he definitely needed a driving break!
And that was our family vacation this summer. It was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to take the kids to more places. I want to take a road trip every summer if we can! I even have a list of places I want to take the kids. Want to see it?
List of Places to take the kids:
- Disney World
- Kennedy Space Center
- San Diego (beach, zoo, Sea World)
- Grand Canyon (houseboat? With fam?)
- Charlotte/Myrtle Beach
- New England – Niagara Falls
- Black Hills – Summer 2011
- Yellowstone/Glacier National Parks
- Boston/Philadelphia history tour
- Washington D.C.
- El Paso, TX
Levi is too young to remember this trip, of course, so we’ll have to make a trip back when he’s older. But there are plenty of places to see in this big country of ours and road trips will allow us to see all the cool stuff between home and our destinations!