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Family Trip 2019

25 Jul

This summer we put a little extra effort into planning because we realized that it might be our last summer vacation trip as a whole family.  Blueberry Pie is 19 and will be leaving soon on a 2 year mission for our church.  By the time he gets home, Cherry Pie will be 19 and could be leaving on a mission, moved away to college, or something grown-up.  Basically from now on, we can’t count on our kids all being home with us.  Next time we have all the family together for a summer vacation, it will be more of a reunion than a family trip.  Yikes. How can this be?

I owe it all to my friend that we got to do something out of the ordinary and amazing. But I better stick to a chronological tale:

Sunday, July 14, the resident captain got home from his National Guard Drill weekend at about 4p.m.  The kids and I had spent the week packing, and we nearly had the van packed and ready to go.  I put the food in the ice chest while the captain changed into civilian clothes.  Inspired by my sister, Katie, we packed as light as we could manage, each person only getting a school sized backpack for their clothing. behind the back seat in the van went my camp chair, the sleeping bags, and 3 tents.  We had four rubbermaid tubs on a trailer hitch platform on the back of the van which held tarps, the camp kitchen, air mattresses, and hiking boots for everyone.  I had a first aid kit, and a box for the 5 kindles, 1 car dvd player, dvds, and charging cords for all of the tech.  It helped in packing light that the twins are potty trained, so I did not have to pack a week’s worth of diapers for two.  I also packed less snacks than usual, and zero candy.  The last few trips we have gone on, I brought way too much food.  We did bring a small 2 gallon bucket 1/2 full of kitty litter in case one of them needed to pee between gas station stops.  It had a tight lid and fit under a van seat, and, yes, it was used several times.

Sunday afternoon, I had made 3 pizzas for dinner, and the kids only ate one plus a little, so I put the rest in the freezer (Feeling like a fool for making too much food and not knowing that pizza would bless us later.) I also made 2 sheet pans of garlic bread sticks.  Those turned out to be the twins and my favorite car snacks.  We rolled out of our driveway at 4:30 p.m.  First time ever that we left on vacation at the time we hoped to. Victory!

Zeke plays Galaxy Evolution on a kindle while Blueberry Pie inspects the backs of his eyelids.


We drove straight to Rexburg, Idaho, according to Google, a 22 hour drive, but it took us 24.  The captain drove the most, I drove about 7 hours and Blueberry Pie drove 3 or maybe 5 hours.  I listened to a Great Course on the life of Winston Churchill while I was driving, and it was very good.   I was unable to fall asleep in the car after I took my turn driving, and felt super tired and cranky about it.

When we got to Rexburg Monday afternoon, the weather was breezy and dry and we all loved it.  Almost all of us, anyway.  Zeke burst into tears and sobbed for at least 10 minutes. He was so upset that after all that driving, we weren’t home.  He wanted to go home and play the wii. After he calmed down enough to look around, he joined Key Lime Pie and Skeeter on the slide and had a great time. Banana Cream Pie and Baby Bean were already building sand castles in the giant sandbox.  After setting up our tents, I got to go sit down and talk with sisters and cousins and not worry about those babies at all.



Tuesday morning the teenagers went to do baptisms at the Rexburg Temple.

I had gotten up to wake them at 5 a.m., so I went in to the kitchen and had a lovely talk with my cousins, Angelic, John, and Tom Pincock, while they cooked everyone’s breakfast.

Then I sat outside in the shade and watched the littles play in the sandbox and talked to cousins and sisters.
After lunch, the captain took Blueberry, Cherry, Pumpkin, Tamale, and Key Lime Pie to explore the ice caves nearby.  (They has planned to climb Mt. Borah, but it was still snowing last week up on the mountain and so the captain decided it wasn’t safe without gear like ice axes and crampons.) They had a super fun time in the caves. (Probably more fun than climbing the mountain would have been, just sayin’.)
I went with all the little pies and cousins to the city splash pad in Rexburg.  The wind was chilly, so even in the sun, the babies got too cold to play after about 45 minutes.  Cousin Olive sure was cute! When we got back to the reunion campground, Banana Cream Pie and Baby Bean were changed out of their swimsuits and in the sandbox playing in less than 5 minutes.  They loved that sandbox.

Baby Olive

Uncle Sam Bennion had the idea that we should fold a thousand paper cranes for Heidi Jane, our cousin who just discovered she has cancer, so all of us, but especially the teenagers, worked on that folding during the whole reunion.
Key Lime Pie and cousins played many games of Pokémon.
Rexburg seems to be constantly windy, and someone brought kites.  These were a huge hit with all the littles at the reunion.  So was the huge water balloon fight my mom started.  My dad stationed himself at the swings and pushed little kiddos for literally hours straight.
Tuesday night, my cousin Penny and I had a book club for the book Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott.  It was just the two of us—partly because I couldn’t find that anyone else had read the book. Later I found that Uncle Doug and Aunt Lillian had read the book, and Aunt Jeanne read most of it, so I wish I could have found them to be in the book club. Penny and I had a lovely chat about books though, and she brought Scottish shortbread cookies.  That talk was definitely a highlight of the reunion for me.
Wednesday morning most of my siblings and I took our kids to the dunes.  The kids had a blast rolling down the hills and burying each other in the sand.  My cousin, Laura, and her husband, Josh, came with their kids and some of her sister Rachel’s kids. They brought boxes to slide down the dunes in, but it turns out boxes don’t slide on dunes. There was a random family there with a couple of inner tubes and swimming goggles.  It turns out that inner tubes don’t slide down sand dunes either, so they abandoned them. Jimmy snagged their tubes, climbed inside, and rolled down the dunes. He went super fast and in a crazy zig-zag. Lucky for little Hazel, Luke was alert and dived down and snatched her out of Jimmy’s path at the last second—or she would have been creamed.
Morgan tried rolling in the tube and he totally face planted in the sand twice as he rolled down.  Blueberry Pie was going to try it, but the owners of the tubes came back and so we had to return their property.
Peter collected a pocket full of bullet casings and kept joking about collecting “shells” at the sand dunes.
My phone died before I could take very many pictures.


Wednesday evening we had Mom’s Bennion Family History Quiz Bowl tournament. Mom and I had made 25 poster of family history stories and hung them in the hallway so that people could read the stories while they waited in line for meals.
Peter, Jimmy, and I combined answered lots of questions (Pete the most) so we did very well. Aunt Jeanne answered a lot as well, and the scorekeeper gave the win to her.  Uncle Howard made a lot of hilarious comments but still also knew a fair amount of history.


The Scooter Pies discovered cousin Joe Bingner playing his Nintendo switch and spent two hours one evening watching him play.

My little technology addicts

Late Wednesday night I went into Rexburg and washed all our dirty laundry at the laundry mat (because we only brought 3 days worth of clothes for everyone, and Zeke had a few accidents.)  Zeke also stripped naked several times each day, providing extra excitement for us all.  The Scooter Pies both got upset every time I tried to take them with me to the girl’s bathroom–they wanted to go to the boy’s bathroom.  So I kept telling them, “This is the family bathroom.”

Thursday morning we packed up and cleaned up, and headed out by 11:30.

This is where the Pie family parted from the larger Bennion family and went our own way.
We headed to Cody, Wyoming, a 5 hour drive, which took us through the northern boarder of Yellowstone park. Luckily, the Captain gets a free pass into National Parks.  We stopped at a couple of thermal springs to stretch our legs, and saw several buffaloes and a bear.  We camped at the KOA in Cody, and the kids got to play on the playground and jump on the giant Jumping bubble (similar to a bouncy castle without walls) for a bit after we cooked dinner.
The next morning, we met my friend’s brother, Joe, who drove down from Powell with his river boat and took us for an hour ride down the Shoshone river.  He has been guiding river tours for over 20 years and told the kids lots of interesting geology facts about the river banks as well as lots of funny jokes. The rapids we went over were not too big, but there was one big section that was pretty intense, and he had us paddle so that the boat spun in circles as we rode the rapids, so that was pretty exciting.  The Captain, Blueberry Pie, Cherry Pie, and I rowed (when he told us too). Joe had two big oars in a rig that he steered with.  The water was near freezing.  Joe called it “refreshing.”  Pumpkin Pie and Tamale Pie sat in the very front of the boat and caught most of the water splashes, blocking the rest of us, heh heh. Zeke loved the whole ride.  Skeeter smiled and shivered the whole time, but claims he didn’t like it.  Key Lime Pie and Baby Bean cried —mostly because they were cold, I think.  Banana Cream Pie didn’t cry, but she announced loudly that she did not like the bumpy, splashing parts. It was super fun and like nothing we have ever done as a family before.  Joe was awesome, and we sure appreciated him taking nearly a whole day to make fun for us.
After the river ride, the Captain went shopping for lunch stuff, and the kids and I went and sat in the hot tub at the KOA pool to warm up our numb feet and legs.
Then we had lunch and took a nap.  Some of the kids did not nap but went and played in the indoor playroom at the KOA.  After our siesta we went into town and treated ourselves to Wendy’s frosties and played at a park.  We wanted to go to a museum or a hike or something, but I was feeling tired still and began to feel sick as time passed. So we went back to the Camp.  More and more of us were feeling kind of queasy and tired,  so we just had Raman noodles for dinner. I’m so glad we camped at the KOA, because I was feeling so terrible that I took all the little kids back to the indoor playroom, and I took a 3 hour nap on a couch while they played and watched TV. Ben washed up the dishes, etc. Then I made all the kids go to bed, and I slept again. In the morning, I think our original plan had been to find a place to hike. But I was so sick that all I could think to do was pack up and go home. So that’s what we did.
It was supposed to be 18 hours home, but it took us 21–probably because I needed extra bathroom stops.  🤢 Cherry Pie was a sick too, though not as bad. About 9 p.m. Saturday night I started feeling better. I slept most of the day, so I took the last driving shift from 4:30-7:30a.m.
And that got us back home Sunday morning, just in time to unload the van, shower up and get to church. I tried to talk myself into staying home and sleeping after the 21 hour drive, because we had not expected to be home that early and had arranged subs for our responsibilities at church—but I couldn’t bring myself to skip church when I had the opportunity to go. So I dragged all my tired, cranky kids to church, and felt really happy and grateful to be there.
Also we had a Sunday miracle.  I was worried that after church I would have to break the Sabbath and go buy groceries because the fridge was pretty much empty.  But there was 1/2 a gallon of milk, and Pumpkin Pie reminded me that I had made too much pizza before we left and had frozen 2 whole pizzas. So we had a delicious lunch, and easy, too.  Funny, I was so irritated at myself for making all that food that no one wanted to eat, and it turned out to be a blessing.
Because we are a military family, we always have an AAR (After Action Review) after big family activities.  Here are the kid’s favorites and highlights:
Blueberry Pie: Riding the river, the Japanese Breakfast Great-Aunt Miyuki cooked for us, and drawing alongside Great-Uncle Howard and Uncle JohnnyD
Cherry Pie: Exploring the Ice Caves
Pumpkin Pie: Exploring the Ice Caves, Riding the River, playing with baby Olive and baby Magnus.  (She now wants to move in with Aunt Tahnee and babysit Magnus daily)
Tamale Pie: Exploring the Ice Caves, playing at the sand dunes
Key-Lime Pie: Playing Pokemon with cousins
Banana Cream Pie: the sand box, flying kites, playing at the indoor playground at the Cody KOA
Baby Bean: Sitting in the Hot Tub at the KOA
When we asked what activities the kids would like to repeat, they predictably listed the ice caves, sand dunes, and river rafting.  Banana Cream Pie commented that she loves visiting places where chiggers don’t live.
When we asked what the kids would like to never do again, they voted to pack even lighter so that we have less stuff kicking around the car.  They also begged to not drive straight through, but stop and sleep somewhere along the way, and to not bring the dvd player, because the little kid movies are annoying.

Summer 2016 Road Trip: “The worst family vacation ever is still a good thing.”

29 Sep

This year our family trip goes down as the most exhausting trip ever.  But we have some good stories to tell.  Maybe in another year or two, I might be able to laugh about how dumb I was to think we could camp anywhere with a 4 year old, 2 year old, and 1 year old twin boys.

Besides family camping,  the resident Captain and Blueberry Pie planned to climb King’s Peak, and we had a family reunion to party at.

Blueberry Pie flew out to Utah a week early to go to a diving camp at BYU.

The Captain was super excited because we purchased a new family tent  (The REI Basecamp 6)  plus some fun LED twinkle lights to hang in the tents.  Our plan was to have the older girls sleep in his 3-man backpacking tent and then us and the four youngest kiddie pies would sleep in the new tent.

We packed Wednesday night, and I thought we were doing well and would get to bed by 8:30pm.


I didn’t factor in that the Captain hadn’t yet packed his gear for backpacking up King’s Peak.  So by the time that was done, we went to bed at 1 am.  But everything was in the van ready to go, and the cooler was full of delicious food.  Pasta salad (with bacon), carrot and celery sticks, mint oreos, lots of Doritos, and most importantly, a tin foil dinner for each of us to eat the next night at our campsite.  This would save me from assembling dinner on Thursday night.  We could just pull up to the campsite, light the charcoal, and dinner could cook while we set up camp.  It would all be so simple and relaxing.

You see, the resident Captain, wanting to make things easy on me, had reserved 2 hotel rooms in Laramie, WY, for Thursday night.  But I talked him into canceling that reservation and reserving a campsite at Curt Goudy State Park instead.  That would save money and there was a playground for the kids to play on and, in theory, run off all the energy they would have from sitting in the car all day.  As I described above, I had a brilliant plan to make dinner and camp setup a breeze.

We began our drive early Thursday morning, about 5:30 a.m.

Road trip Van Selfie

Almost immediately, Pumpkin Pie and Banana Cream Pie began puking.  The puking did not stop.

It’s a good thing we had a roll of heavy duty trash compactor bags in the van.

Then the power cord to the car DVD player stopped working.  All our new movies, purchased specifically for entertainment on the trip could not be enjoyed.  Everyone was so sad not to get to watch “The Croods,” “Spirit, Stallion of the Cimmaron,” “Chitty, Chitty, Bang! Bang!” and “The Music Man.”

Due in part to the fact that whenever we stopped for gas I had to change the Scooter Pie’s diapers as well as sometimes Baby Bean’s diaper and clean up someone who had barfed, the trip took longer than it should have.

The Captain washes Windows too.

By the time we finally got to our campsite, it was almost 9 p.m., not 6 like we planned.  Tamale Pie was also feeling sick by now.  As we got to the campsite, we saw signs that a new burn ban had just been posted.  No wood or charcoal fires allowed.  That meant that all our delicious tin foil dinners could not be cooked or eaten.  I was really regretting those hotel rooms, delivery pizza, and the probable coin laundry in the hotel basement.

Because Blueberry Pie was already in Utah, and Pumpkin Pie and Tamale Pie were sick, that left only Cherry Pie, Me, and our intrepid Captain as able-bodied workers.  Banana Cream Pie, Baby Bean and the Scooter Pies took all my resources to keep safe.  The Scooter Pies spent their time stuffing rocks into their mouths as fast as possible.  Baby Bean ran everywhere like a crazy squirrel, with Key Lime Pie tossing pine cones after her.  Banana Cream Pie, being sick was rather more querulous than usual.  (Which is a lot.) Cherry Pie alternately helped me and helped her father as she saw needs.  I was many times grateful that evening that she was not sick.

Despite the fact that we couldn’t eat our scrumptious foil dinners, there was lots of pasta salad left.  So anyone who felt well enough to eat still had something good, albeit cold, for dinner.  It took a couple hours to get the tents set up, but the evening was very pleasant and the breeze and the lake view were especially nice.  I kept thinking that I should be a lot more sad about all the trip fails of the day, but the weather was so perfect that I was still enjoying myself.  The new tent was so spacious and nice.  I love the big vestibules on each side and the extra tent poles that keep the tent from distorting in high wind.  The babies took turns waking up in the night so I was able to take care of them without help.  I didn’t get more than a couple of hours of sleep, but this is what I expect when camping.  However, the Captain did not sleep well and was disappointed to still be tired in the morning.  (I am always a little annoyed when I’ve been up with babies all night and the Captain has the gall to announce that he “didn’t sleep well”  but it’s a fairly frequent occurrence in my life, so I’m used to it. )

In the morning, we packed up camp and headed on down the road to the trail head for King’s Peak where we would meet Blueberry Pie and his uncle.  We lost about an hour of time because the cap to our gas tank broke, but we still got to the trail head in plenty of time.  However Blueberry Pie and Uncle were late.   Finally, as rain threatened, the Captain set up his tent, and the kiddie pies and I left him there and headed on to Salt Lake City, where we planned to spend our days in comfort while the men folk backpacked up and down the mountain.

The girls and I spent the next 2 days in Salt Lake City, hanging with cousins and having a nice relaxing time.  Except for that Pumpkin Pie and Banana Cream Pie continued to be sick and unable to keep any food or drink down.

The Men got back from the mountain at around 2 a.m. Monday morning.  When it was a more reasonable hour for getting up, I cleaned out our van and loaded all our gear back into it.  At about 10, we loaded all the kiddie pies into the van as well, said goodbye to our cousins (and begged forgiveness for bringing our nasty flu bug) and headed south to Bryce Canyon.  Pumpkin Pie and Banana Cream Pie were still throwing up, and I was starting to get worried about them dehydrating.  I’ve never had children sick for so many days in a row.

I did get some work on Blueberry Pie’s RavenClaw scarf done.

It was about a 6 hour drive down to Bryce but the exciting thing was that my awesome sister Katie, and her four boys met us there and camped with us.  We cooked hotdogs for the kids and delicious chicken and veggies for ourselves.  Katie’s boys play lots of crazy games camping, so Key Lime Pie was really having a great time.  Also, Katie had some prescription strength anti-nausea medicine and both of my sick children were finally able to keep food and water down for the first time in 5 days.  That was such a relief!

My four babies (the scooter pies, Baby Bean and Banana Cream Pie) continued to be super high maintenance and required constant vigilance from multiple people.  Baby Bean found a mud puddle and swam in it.  I began giving the Scooter Pies larger rocks to chew on, hoping to prevent them from choking on small ones.  But they rejected the safe rocks.

The weather was much colder than it had been when we camped in Laramie.  Subsequently, none of the 4 baby pies slept during the night.  I had to wake up the Captain and then Blueberry Pie to help me take care of all the fussing babies.  It was torture.  The Captain was now going on his 5th night of camping and almost no sleep.  As the sky began to lighten with the morning, the Captain said to me, “I never want to go camping again.”  I myself had been thinking, “I will camp no more forever.”  But the Captain loves camping, so I was a little surprised that he felt the same way.  I realized that though we have camped many times with babies, there has never been more than 2 toddler/babies, and I could handle all the murderous part myself.  But I couldn’t buffer him from 4 toddler/babies and so everyone was miserable.  The Captain just wanted to cancel the rest of the trip and go home, but I begged him for one more day because I didn’t want to miss the Wednesday Activities at the family reunion.

After getting camp cleaned up, we went to Bryce National Park and picked up JR Ranger packets for all the kids.

Baby Bean pushes buttons

Banana Cream Pie is serious about getting her JR Ranger badge.

The scooter pies are not paying attention to the ranger discussion about telescope lenses.

Little Prairie Dogs

We drove through the park, but it was very busy.  We had trouble finding any overlooks that had parking space.  But we did get to see the Natural Arch, which was spectacular.  The kids worked through their books and earned their badges, and we piled back into the car and headed back north to Ephraim Canyon for our family reunion.

The road from Bryce to Ephraim is slow, pot-holed, and full of curves.  That was not a fun drive.  Scenic, I guess, but on the back of many sleepless nights, it was just more torture.  We got to the reunion just in time for dinner, which was delicious.  We also lucked out and there were enough bunk beds for us and the babies to sleep inside.  The Captain put in his ear plugs and had the first good sleep of our vacation.  I had just fallen asleep when the Scooter Pies woke up, and so I put them in my twin size bunk with me.  However, the space between the bunk and the wall was just big enough to let a baby fall off the side, so I couldn’t sleep after that for fear that one of them would fall off.  I just lay awake holding them and waiting for morning.

Wednesday morning I got to help with breakfast.  I made some pretty delicious breakfast casseroles, if I do say so myself.

Then we took the kids to a nearby pond for swimming.  It was the grossest, stinkiest pond I have every seen.  Banana Cream Pie (who I remind you is only 4) said with great disappointment when she saw the pond, “I thought you said we were going swimming!”  Luckily, one of my uncles brought his huge river raft, which was tons of fun to play on and saved the day.

Then we left the kids back at camp and told them to be good and the Captain and I went to the Manti temple.  That was the highlight of our whole trip for sure.

I had hoped to find a laundromat later in the evening to wash the throw up clothes that had been solid on the drive from Salt Lake to Bryce (before Aunt Katie hooked us up with drugs.). But though we did find a laundromat, it was closing by the time we got there.  I was pretty disappointed.  Instead we just went back to camp and put the kids to bed.  Thursday, we took a little hike with the kids and then Captain went back down  the mountain and washed all the laundry while I talked with my family and chased the twins and Baby Bean.  She spent most of the day digging holes in the dirt and I just let her.

Friday morning, we left the reunion early because the Captain Wanted to get home by Saturday night.  I felt like a big bum leaving early, but I had been lucky to wheedle those 2 days.  Also, I was pretty tired of chasing babies around in the out-of-doors.  Going home sounded pretty good.

We stayed in a hotel on the way home.  And it was great.  While I cannot predict the future, I feel that family camping may decline significantly therein.

Great Lakes Road Trip 2013- Day 5 – 7 Beautiful Michigan

29 Nov

First thing in the morning, we crossed Mackinac Bridge and started down the East side of Lake Michigan. This was the most beautiful countryside of the trip, I thought. We drove through lots of picturesque little towns and saw lots of fruit orchards. We reached our destination, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, at about noon. We super duper lucked out and got the very last campsite available. It was a “hike in” campsite, which we have never tried before, but it turned out to be awesome. It was more secluded than drive-up campsites and closer to the bathrooms to boot. Plus the “hike” was less than 200 yards.

After Lunch, we headed to the beach for several hours of great fun. IMG_0848IMG_0757 IMG_0759 IMG_0763 IMG_0778 IMG_0819 IMG_0786

I think I must have an affinity for water/beaches because all my favorite trips and moments include water.

This first beach was a 1.2 mile hike from our campsite. I’ve forgotten it’s name, but we were the only people there. It was so peaceful. The sand was so fine, it squeaked under our feet when we walked in it. A little old woman came along the beach picking up smooth stones. She stopped to tell our children the Legend of the Sleeping Bear.

Long ago there was a great fire on the far shore of the lake, where Wisconsin is now. The mother bear and her two cubs swam across the lake to escape the fire. There is the mother bear, she said, pointing to the beautiful sand dune cliff to our right. She is waiting for her cubs. You can see them just there, that little island and beyond it is his brother. The mother bear sleeps while she waits for her cubs.

After her story, she gave each of the children a stone from her bag as a special gift before she continued on her way down the beach. You can’t buy experiences like this!

Our second day at Sleeping Bear, we drove up around the scenic loop that was supposedly so good. it was 45 minutes of driving through trees. We stopped at overlook points and looked out at trees. Was there something beyond the trees that people used to be able to see? who knows. what i do know is that 6 children who have been inside a car for most of a week watching trees are not entertained by being stuck inside the same car yet again to watch more trees. there was much complaining and fighting and i have a special hatred in my heart forever for that scenic loop and the pArk planners who made such a big deal of it on all the signs.

We finally escaped from the hell of that scenic loop and drove over to the giant sand dunes. The kiddie pies and the DH ran up and rolled down the dunes for over an hour. I stayed down at the bottom in the shade with Banana Cream Pie. That was the kids’ favorite bit of the whole trip.

We tried out Glen Haven beach. It was super crowded and the water seemed colder. The girls buried each other from the waist down and spent hours creating elaborate mermaid tails with rocks from the lake. I have beautiful pictures of them trapped inside the broken computer.

We cooked dinner at the picnic area there and then started our journey home. We had planned to stop at a hotel for the evening, but none had vacancies, so we kept driving. We were tired and cranky and not at our best.

Finally at about 1 in the morning we found a hotel with an open room. I will not speak of the nastiness we found inside that room. I will only say that we did not bring any of our belongings inside, nor walk on the carpet with our bare feet. We showered and slept about 5 hours. Woke up the kids and got out as fast as we could.

The sun rose and miraculously everyone was cheerful and pleasant again. Home we drove past Gary, Indiana, and Chicago. I called ahead and ordered Pizzas from Pizza Hut for lunch, so they were ready to be picked up as we drove through some little town between Chicago and St Louis.

Attempting to avoid road construction landed us in East St Louis, yikes! But we managed to get out again without being shot at. If Matt and Cegan had been home, we would have spent the evening with them, but they weren’t so a few more hours driving, and we were home sweet home at last.

It was our most epic road trip yet. The DH drove close to 8 hours most days, longer on some, as we hurried to hit the next high point. I did no driving at all, just handed out snacks, navigated, and tried to keep kids happy and quiet.

It was quite a memorable trip!

Great Lakes Road Trip- Day 4- The Hodag and Mt Arvon

28 Nov
The Rhinelander Hodag

The Rhinelander Hodag drawn by Blueberry Pie

As we were leaving town, we saw a large, dinosaur-like statue of a monster.  Then we saw the monster again on the water tower.  “What is up with this monster?” we wondered.  I googled  “Rhinelander monster” on my phone and we found out about the Hodag.  The legend of the hodag was one of the funniest things we have ever heard, and we deeply regretted missing the opportunity to take a picture of the family with the hodag statue.    We vowed to research local legends of the towns we stay in on family trips from now on.

After about a 4 hour drive on the highway and an intense hour of driving on unmarked logging roads out in the boonies of Northern Michigan, we reached the top of Mount Arvon.  I wasn’t too worried because DH was doing the driving.  We almost got the van stuck in a huge pothole/mud puddle at one point.  I think Mt. Arvon should probably have a sign saying 4 wheel drive is needed or park and walk the rest of the way up.  The “road” is extended from the parking lot most online sites describe, so you can pretty much drive to the top now.  But like I said, consider walking the last bit if you are in a large vehicle or don’t have 4 wheel drive, especially if it has been rainy.

Mount Arvon

Mount Arvon

On the way down, DH had a headache from the worries of transporting the family through such unfamiliar territory with mostly unmarked roads.  When we got to the nearest town, L’anse, I suggested we stop at a park to relax for a bit.  We stumbled upon this little playground right on the shore of Lake Superior and spent 20 of the most glorious minutes of my life playing in the sunshine and breeze.  Every time since, when someone says, “picture the perfect place” or “Picture yourself on a beach,”  I imagine myself back in this little park.


Mom! Watch! aaand cue Chariots of Fire soundtrack: Dun Dun da-Dun Dunnnn daaaa….

IMG_0863 IMG_0865 IMG_0885IMG_0887 IMG_0889 IMG_0893 IMG_0890 IMG_0877

We planned on camping at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  We got there at about 5 pm and all the camping spots were taken.  Online had warned of this, but we have always been so lucky to get campsites, that the DH assumed we would find one.  We did not.  After lots of frustrating driving around, we found a picnic spot, and I cooked dinner while the kids played on the beach again.  We should have just gone ahead and visited the pretty places there at Pictured Rocks that we wanted to see, but we wasted all our daylight looking for a campsite.  Hind sight is 20/20.

As our trip progressed, we learned the hard way that the Great Lakes are a popular attraction and you should book ALL of your campsites/hotel rooms 6-12 months in advance.

After dinner, we checked all the local hotels.  No Vacancy.  So we started driving along the route we had planned for the next day.  I googled hotels all along the way on my phone and called ahead looking for a place to stay.  We finally found a room in St. Ignace, Michigan and stopped to get some rest at 12:30 a.m.  in a lovely little motel called Bay View Motel, right on the lake.  It was low priced, clean, and rustic.  I loved it.  I also loved getting some sleep.  It was our good luck spot for the trip.



Great Lakes Road Trip 2013- Day 3 – Timms Hill

28 Nov

Lake Superior

Day 3 we packed up camp and headed down the shore of Lake Superior towards Wisconsin.  We stopped at a lookout called P__ Point and the fog on the lake lifted enough that we had some great views and got some great pictures.  This is the only surviving picture.  The kids loved scrambling over the rocks.

Blueberry Pie sampling Betty's Raspberry Peach Pie

Blueberry Pie sampling Betty’s Raspberry Peach Pie

Then, following the advice of DH’s online backpacking friends, we stopped at Betty’s Pies and sampled the world famous pies to be had therein.  We tried Raspberry Peach and French Banana Cream.  I come from a family of fabulous pie bakers, so I am always skeptical of pies which can be purchased.  Usually, people say they are good because people have never had a good pie to compare it too.  However, Betty’s pies really were good.  The raspberry peach tasted as good as pies my Aunties bake, so I didn’t feel like my money was wasted.  The French Banana Cream was one of the most heavenly things I have ever tasted.  The “french” part was that the cream on top of the pie was like a whipped cream cheese cake.  I just kept eating lactaid pills and pieces of pie all day long.  (I paid for that later.  Even lactaid pills can’t handle everything.) But  Soooo tasty!

We stopped and toured Split Rock Light House, which was fascinating and fun.

Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

After about 6 hours, we got to Timms Hill, Wisconsin.  We all hiked up to the top.  It was like a steep hill.


Then the big kids and the DH climbed the lookout towers and I went back down with Baby Dumpling and Cutie Pie.  We played on the playground at the bottom of the hill until everyone else came back down.  IMG_0836

That evening, we stopped in Rhinelander, Wisconson, ate cheese curds at a Dogs -n-Suds and spent the night in a hotel.  Ah! showers and soft beds for everyone!

Great Lakes Road Trip 2013- Day 2 Hiking Eagle Mountain

28 Nov

At the Trail Head

Eagle Mountain in Minnesota was high point #6 for the kids and I, and High Point #7 for DH.  It was a 7 mile hike and most places online say the difficulty of the hike is about the same as Harney Peak, South Dakota, which we hiked last summer.  

I guess that is accurate.  The DH and I were both in better shape for hiking this year than we were last year, so it was easier on us in that way.  I have never hiked on such a rocky trail, though.  And when I say rocky, I mean the trail was full of big rocks that you had to step from rock to rock–like crossing a stream, only no stream.  The rocks were close together, but we had to watch every step carefully or twist our ankles and fall.

Cutie Pie was almost 5 years old and hiked much better than she did last summer in South Dakota–She motivated herself without much input from me for 2-2.5 miles before insisting on being carried.  When the trail got very steep for the last mile, she climbed willingly.  The DH carried 18 month old Baby Dumpling until Cutie Pie needed help.  Then 13 year old Blueberry Pie carried the baby and DH carried Cutie Pie.  I got out of packing an extra baby, since as you can tell from the picture, I was carrying one anyway.

We ran out of bug spray as I was applying it to the kiddie pies that morning, and the mosquitoes were fierce on the mountain.  DH and Blueberry Pie swell a lot when they get bit, and they were really suffering.  We bought more bug spray that evening, but the mosquitoes were never as bad as they were that day on Eagle Mountain.

We stopped at a Lake about halfway up to enjoy some scenery and have a snack.  Some of the picture files on my computer seem to have become corrupted, so I no longer have those pictures of the lake.

At the Top of EMHere we are at the top of Eagle Mountain.  Blueberry Pie is letting us all know how hard he has worked, packing a baby halfway up the mountain.

While we were hiking, we passed several groups of other hikers.  Often they had on sweatshirts or t-shirts that gave away what state, or at least what college they hailed from.  It was really fun for me to know where people were from, and I’ve decided to get a Missouri t-shirt so people can know where we are from when we hike high points.  I learned that the Minnesotan phrase of choice when greeting strangers on the trail is “How’s it goin’? ”  This seems a little more friendly than the Missouri phrase of choice, which seems to be, “Hey.”

The day was fairly cool and I wore my most comfortable and most favorite maternity pants every– my old army maternity BDU’s.


First off, these sweet pants have pockets, a rare thing for maternity pants.  Second of all, they stay where they are supposed to stay and do not require constant pulling back up when I am hiking, walking, and moving around.  A second rare thing for maternity pants.  Thirdly, they are very comfortable and fit me perfectly, something I have never encountered elsewhere in maternity pants.

I don’t wear them very often outside my house, because cammo isn’t really my style.  But I knew they would be the hands down best choice for this hike.  I have a dark brown maternity shirt that is about the color of those old army t-shirts and I was feeling like a fashion genius in my hiking boots, brown shirt, cammo pants, and pig tails.



The DH seemed a little like he didn’t love my look, which is funny to me since he loves his own uniform so much.


As we were on our way back down the mountain, we passed a family who were just starting.  The father and son were a little ahead and hiking in pretty normal, adequate hiking clothes.  Behind them came the mom and little daughter.  The mom and daughter were blinged out for a trip to the mall.  Jewelry, cute hoodies, and sparkly manicures to match their sparkly flip flops.  As I passed them, I was thinking to myself maybe I should have worn some makeup or something a little more girly–perhaps I had gone too far to the practical side in my choice of ensemble for the day

About 5 minutes later, I wanted to go back and warn that mom and little girl that there was no way they could make it up the mountain in flip flops.  The flip flops would rip apart on those rocks and they would end up having to walk the rest of the way bare foot.  I wondered if they had actually planned this hike, or if they had just been driving by and were like, “Hey, look, the highest point in Minnesota, let’s hike it.  Sounds quirky and fun.”  I really have no idea what they were thinking, and women who are that sparkly are very intimidating to me for some reason, so I didn’t go back.  (Plus I was ready for the hike to be over and didn’t really want to add to my fatigue just to go back and try to talk sense to someone who thought hiking a mountain in flip flops was a good idea.)


To be fair, we have been on 4 high points that would be doable in flip flips:  Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Michigan.  It is possible that there are several out east that would also fit in this category.  So maybe that family was from one of those states.

After our hike, we went back to camp and ate something yummy and easy to cook, possibly it was Spinach Parmesan PastaRoni and fried Zucchini.

Then we went drove a little ways down from our campsite to the shore of Lake Superior and relaxed and let the kids play for as long as they wanted.

Baby Dumpling thought it was hilarious every time someone threw a rock into the water

Baby Dumpling thought it was hilarious every time someone threw a rock into the water

Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Pie

Pumpkin Pie finds a perfect rock.

Pumpkin Pie finds a perfect rock.

Cutie Pie cannot possibly narrow her collection down to one perfect rock.

Cutie Pie cannot possibly narrow her collection down to one perfect rock.

Tamale Pie posing for the camera.

Tamale Pie posing for the camera.


Baby Dumpling tries out rock throwing.

Baby Dumpling tries out rock throwing.

DH has as much fun as the kiddie pies.

DH has as much fun as the kiddie pies.

I found this friendly little leech attached to Pumpkin Pie's pinky toe.  After she was done freaking out and able to stand still, I pulled him off.  Blueberry Pie and Cutie Pie went immediately into the water and got their own friendly leeches on purpose.  After pulling the third leech off Cutie Pie, I announced that I would not remove any more leeches, so they had better not "catch" any more.  Pumpkin Pie remained grossed out by the leeches for the entire trip.  A point that Blueberry Pie capitalized on by "just happening" to mention the word leech constantly.

I found this friendly little leech attached to Pumpkin Pie’s pinky toe. After she was done freaking out and able to stand still, I pulled him off. Blueberry Pie and Cutie Pie went immediately into the water and got their own friendly leeches on purpose. After pulling the third leech off Cutie Pie, I announced that I would not remove any more leeches, so they had better not “catch” any more. Pumpkin Pie remained grossed out by the leeches for the entire trip. A point that Blueberry Pie capitalized on by “just happening” to mention the word leech constantly.

Cherry Pie shows the perfect skipping rock she has found.

Cherry Pie shows the perfect skipping rock she has found.

We finished off the day with hot cocoa around the campfire.  It was a good day.

Great Lakes Road Trip 2013- Day 1

6 Oct

The day after the last swim meet, we left for our 2013 family vacation.

I had voted for anyplace that included a beach (after last year’s mostly primitive camping vacation, I wanted cushy!)

The DH has that goal to summit the highest peak in every state. By visiting the Great Lakes, we could summit 3 state high points and spend lots of time on the beach as well. We were pretty excited. Not to mention that when people ask what your summer plans are, and you say, “We’re driving around the Great Lakes,” it just sounds exciting and impressive.

We drove straight from home to our first campsite at Tettegouche State Park, about an hour north of Duluth, Minnesota. That was a 14 hour drive and Baby Dumpling was not happy for a large part of it. I don’t know if she had a stomach bug or was just car sick, but we had to stop 3 times so I could clean her and her car seat and rid the car of vomit smelling things. Then she just got tired of being in her car seat and got downright fussy. Having a crying baby makes everyone in the car tense and cranky, especially DH & I. We finally stopped around the Iowa-Minnesota border, and I broke the Sabbath to buy her this barking doggy toy to hopefully help her be happy. She was happy for about 30 minutes. Beginning a road trip on a Sunday was not the best idea we’ve ever had.


Duluth was beautiful. Driving through it was like driving through a Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I think DH would seriously want to move there if it weren’t for the mosquitoes. (More about those buggers later.) In Duluth I finally used my iPhone to play a Woody Woodpecker cartoon for Baby Dumpling. Ahhh, peace in the car. Next summer, we are buying DVD players for the car BEFORE our trip. No question, no argument, done deal.

When we finally got to camp, I sprayed everyone down with bug spray. Then, I fired up the camp stove and we had taco soup with chips ready to eat by the time the DH & kids had the tent set up. I’ve visited Minnesota once before in my life and I warned the DH about the mosquitoes–both their enormous size and sheer numbers. He thought I was exaggerating, but I think that night he began to believe I wasn’t joking. The next day would show him just how right I was. Something he should not have been surprised by, as I am always right….

Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis

24 Jan
Gateway arch and reflecting pool in St. Louis,...

Gateway arch and reflecting pool in St. Louis, Missouri, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our trip to St. Louis was awesome!  Friday was a whirlwind of packing because the DH decided to take a 1/2 day so we could leave earlier.  I had to pack everything with 5 hours less time than I had thought to have.  Then I found out he had Monday off because of the holiday and we decided to stay 2 more days, so I had to go back and pack more.  But the trailer got packed with Matt & Cegan’s stuff and with some Little Caesar’s Hot & Readys to keep us company plus Jimmy & Tahnee & Morgan, we were finally St. Louie bound.

First thing Saturday Morning, Cegan watched all the kiddie pies so the rest of us grownups could go to the temple.  That was wonderful and I may post more about it later.  When we got back, she had even cooked lunch at the same time as taking care of 9 kids.  It was so tasty!  What a super woman.

saint louis zoo

saint louis zoo (Photo credit: paparutzi)

We loved the zoo, especially the penguin house, Herpetology House, and the zebras and camels. This big camel came right up to us and huffed and sneered.  I think he was worried about us stealing his harem of lady camels.

I think the animals there were the most spectacular and up close of any I have ever seen at a zoo.  The sea lion exhibit was pretty incredible too.  The St. Louis Zoo is free admission. That’s something that really helps out a family of 8! We spent about 4 hours there, which was the limit for our feet and for the kiddie pie’s attention spans.  My 4-year old decided that she didn’t want to ride in the stroller, but she didn’t want to walk.  She wanted me to carry her.  I was pretty hard-hearted and informed her that she could walk or she could ride in the stroller.  She refused to do either, so she cried a whole lot.  Too bad.

The crying stopped when we got inside the penguin house.  I’m still amazed by  how close we were to those cute little guys.


Giant Bugs! My Favorite

Back to Matt’s house for delicious dinner and vegging on the couch.  We gave the kids Uncle Matt’s Ipad full of Micky Mouse cartoons and we stayed up watching the Bourne Legacy.  It was pretty good.

Sunday was church and lucky for us, Cegan’s ward meets at 12:30. Everyone had plenty of time for washing hair and ironing white shirts.  Plus Cegan has a whole bunch of Living Scriptures Cartoons so we even had Sunday appropriate movies to help the kids keep reasonable Sunday behavior.

Monday, we decided to visit the Arch.  I’ve never been, so it was my first time to see it too!  We rode the Metro also so the kids got to ride a train and see the arch.  The wind was brisk and it was about 25 degrees outside, so we were pretty cold, but we walked down to the Mississippi River Front anyway.  Cherry Pie spit in the Mississippi river just so that she could tell Grandpa that she had. The Arch is just miraculous.  I could have just sat and looked at it for an hour, if I hadn’t had to keep an eye on kids.  It just seems so impossible and beautiful that I could hardly believe what I was looking at.

There is a museum of westward expansion at the base of the arch full of really cool exhibits and moving animatronics.  (And the museum is freeeee.)  Riding the tram to the top of the arch is not free, but we did it anyway.  The kids enjoyed the tram to the top as much as looking out the windows to see all of St.Louis.  I did not feel afraid of how high up I was, amazingly, but I did feel very motion sick.  I’m not sure if that was because of the tram ride, or because the arch sways a bit in the wind, or because it was rather hot and stuffy at the top, or all of these things.  In any case, I voted for a speedy return to ground level.  Next, We walked to a little chapel, originally built by French explorers and the old county courthouse, before returning to the warmth of the Metro.  Jimmy & Tahnee  had spaghetti waiting for us when we arrived.  Thank goodness, because we were about to DIE of hunger.  After our late lunch, wehad a nap & then headed home.

We want to go back again soon! (not on a Monday as 90% of the attractions in St. Louis are closed on Mondays.  LAME.  But now we know so we can plan.)

South Dakota, camping style: part 6 Homeward Bound

2 Aug

Thursday we headed home.  We took an hour detour to drive through the Badlands.  It was awesome

We seriously considered extending our trip a day so we could camp and explore the Badlands, but I was feeling exceedingly unwell that morning and the camping facilities are very primitive.  I had to admit I didn’t think I could handle another day of possibly even less available plumbing. 

We continued on home, stopping only to see this:

Little Rascals

Vacation is fun and so is Going Home.

South Dakota camping style: Part 5, Harney Peak

2 Aug
Wednesday we started out early for Harney Peak.  We wanted to be well on our way to the top before the day got too hot.  We knew that hiking with all the kids would make us slower.  Harney Peak is the high point of South Dakota and the highest peek between the Rocky Mountains and the Pyrenees.  It is 3.5 miles to the top, but the elevation gain is only about 1000 feet, so most of the trail is not too steep.
Ben started out carrying Baby Dumpling in the baby pack; the rest of us had to hike on our own 2 feet.  Right from the get go, Cutie Pie did not want to hike.  “My legs are broken,” she told me.  Luckily, my trekking pole collapses down to just the right length for a small 3 year old.  I told her she could be the leader and she cheered up.
She got frustrated when the other kids refused to hike slowly behind her.  I used Aunt Katie’s trick of super powers next.
“Cutie Pie, how will we get to the next rock?  Lets use our Super Dinosaur Power/Super Running Power/Super Star Power/Super Butt Wiggle Power/Super Pooh Bear Jumping Power”  That got us a good deal further along the trail.

The views were spectacular along the way.  My photography skills don’t do it justice.
Blueberry Pie offered to carry Cutie Pie and she let him for 100-200 yards. Then I produced apples from my pack.
I promised her that if she would walk all the way up, I would carry her all the way down.
She would go for a bit and then say, “Momma, I just want you to carry me.”
We pretended to be baby ponies. I distracted her by having her tell me what ponies eat.  I told her I knew a story about a pony named Rocket and I told her Grandpa’s story of Whitey & Mimi for the first time.  She loved it.  In this way, we got to the marker for 1 1/2 miles.  We had fallen pretty far behind the others, but they were waiting for us there.  She was excited to be caught up and went a bit further on her own.  Then she just stopped in the middle of the trail.
“You just go, Mommy,” she said, motioning me on with her hand.  This was different from the whining and fussing of before.
“I won’t leave you here all alone,” I said encouragingly. “Come on with me.”
She sighed and took 2 more steps and then stopped again.  “You just go, Mommy.”  That squeezed my heart, so I picked her up and tied her on my back with my baby carrier and carried her the rest of the 2 miles up the Mountain.  She fell asleep almost instantly, so I think she really had walked as far as she could go.
Just before the peak, there is a huge flight of stairs.  We had planned to eat lunch on the summit, but stopped at the base of the stairs instead.  Baby Dumpling was getting fussy and so were the other kids.  I broke out a package of chips to go with our sandwiches.  Nacho Cheese flavored tortilla chips are good for troop morale.
 Luckily, Cutie Pie was willing to climb up the stairs herself.  I’m not sure I could have carried her.  They were not as steep as the ones in this picture.  This is inside the Fire Tower. 
 Lucky for me, Cutie Pie was excited to get to the Princess Castle on top of the Mountain.
When we got to the top, 5 children were miraculously recovered from fatigue and went scampering about like mountain goats, climbing all over the granite boulders.
I alternately prayed for their deliverance from death  and begged out loud for them to come down.  (I’m not exaggerating.)
   I think that maybe on some of the higher peaks, I’ll stop just short of the summit.
 I’m not sure the view is enough to compensate for the sharp pain of fear that goes crushing through me when I am up so high. 

 Even from the complete safety of the stone walled fire tower, I was only barely able to keep myself from dropping to my hands and knees when I looked out over the Black Hills from 7,242 feet above sea level.
I know I look all calm here, but it is only a facade.
 I didn’t know this, but chipmunks live at the top of mountains, and there were about 100 running around and climbing the boulders with my kids.
I started to feel better about the whole being higher than anything else I could see feeling and then Cherry Pie started balance beam walking along the cliff side edges of the boulders again.   I finally sat down with Baby Dumpling and leaned against a boulder and covered my eyes and told myself that if they all died, there was nothing I could do about it.
Picture Ben took while I was cowering on the ground .
I stayed there until Ben was done exploring and ready to take us all down again.
We switched things up on the way down.  Ben put the 3-year-old  in the baby pack, and I tied the 6-month-old onto me and down we went.  My trekking poles were great.  Besides helping me keep my balance down the mountain, I loaned them to various kids several times to motivate them to keep going.
By the end, all our feet hurt and we were all tired.   The 12-year-old is the only kid who never complained about being too tired or that his feet hurt.  The girls who were sure they couldn’t take another step were soon running about again as if they had done nothing all day.  The grownups to IB Profin and sat in our camp chairs like lumps.
For dinner I warmed up 2 cans of chili and we had Frito Pie.  Gotta love that propane stove.