Sunday, June 17, 2012

Exploring the Black Hills

Our Final Day in the Black Hills
On the agenda~
Wind Cave National Park
Needles Highway
Custer State Park

The park is gorgeous and full of wildlife.
You get to drive through and enjoy it while making your way to the visitor center and cave entrance. 

We found many pronghorn and bison throughout the park.

The prairie dogs were our favorite :)
They are so fun to watch!  They squeak, wiggle their tails, and are very busy.

A momma and her babies

Working on Junior Ranger badges and having a picnic.

The Wind Cave is known for the rare boxwork that lines it's tunnels.
It is also one of the longest caves in the world!
So glad to know this :)

The cave tour starts at the entrance that started it all.  It was discovered by a teenager in the 1800's that found the small hole and went in to explore!  I just don't think I would've done that :) 

The ranger has a yellow flag in front of the hole.  Depending on the air pressure, the wind either blows out or sucks in.
The wind is blowing out today, meaning a low air pressure day.

Exploring inside Wind Cave


After the tour was complete, so were the junior ranger badges :)
We LOVE the happy rangers :)
We spent the rest of the afternoon driving through Custer State Park and part of the Needles Highway.  
The area is just so beautiful!  We are very sad
that it's time to go.  We'd love to come back to hike some of the many trails and camp in Custer State Park.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Between the Black Hills and the Badlands~

Our adventures in South Dakota continued at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site...which is really out in the middle of nowhere-between the Black Hills and the Badlands.

This site is actually the visitor center for an area.  There are launch facilities and missile silos all over South Dakota.
We watched a film, worked on jr. ranger books, and read the plaques here.
This shows the trajectory of our missile line, as well as the missile locations in the bottom left corner.
Look closely in the left corner, you can see how the missiles are laid out.  The dark line is I-90 through SD.
The black tag is the "You are here" location of the visitor center.
After our Cold War history lesson, we drove 17 miles to a launch facility tour.
Again...out in the middle of nowhere South Dakota :)
Launch facility is on the left.
While waiting to be admitted in, we read even more about the "Invisible Warriors" of the Cold War.
The missiliers were on the front lines of the Cold War...they were ready to launch 24/7 for decades.
Because of their service, they deterred the Cold War from becoming a "real" battlefield.
Our missiles were deactivated when the START Treaty was signed in Sept. 1991.
This is what is UNDER the building above:
A picture of them burying the launch room that we toured (see photos below).
It was made of concrete without any seams, multiple feet thick.

Inside the launch facility:
The lunch room and break area.
There are pictures on the wall on the right of all the missiliers who have served here...
and we actually knew one!  Jon served with him at OTS (Officer Training School) in Montgomery, AL. :)
Heading into where the missiliers worked...under ground, in a concrete tube.
Read the blast door!  So funny :)
Our missiles could reach Russia in LESS than 30 minutes!
Two missiliers worked together in this room.  One sat in this red chair, the other sat in the back near the ranger.
They had bunks and a toilet in this small space, too!
All of these metal contraptions equal ONE computer!
Insert the Launch Key HERE
Remember the movie, War Games with Matthew Broderick?  :)

We drove up the road a couple of miles to check out 
a real missile silo!
Missile D-9
One of MANY across the northern plains

This could destroy Russia in 30 minutes!

On our way back to Ellsworth AFB, we passed a famous landmark, also out in the middle of nowhere...
Wall Drug!
I encourage you to read the history of Wall Drug.  I was so impressed to learn how this landmark and tourist stop came to be.  I love visionary stories like these, and especially the way the wife encouraged her husband's dream :)
There are Wall Drug billboards for MILES and MILES before you ever reach Wall, SD.
Downtown Wall, SD.
Wall Drug is on the left...ALL of the buildings on the left :)

Enjoying our FREE Ice Water (what made Wall Drug famous!)
And our FREE donuts for Veterans!
We spent time wandering through the shops, ice cream parlor, and touring the "Backyard".
Just what I've always wanted...a rattlesnake coffee mug :)

This T-Rex came to life every 12 minutes...
and it SCARED my kids!  :)

Love this sweet Travelers' Chapel...
we went inside and thanked God for His protection and provision
for our family during this grand adventure.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Teaching kids responsibility through choices...

We discovered a new way to teach the value of money and choices---otherwise known as responsibility :)  Since we love sharing and teaching on the topic of parenting... we want to pass this along to you.

When we went camping over Memorial Day, the campground had a camp store, putt putt golf, boats to rent, etc.  The camp store had slushies, candy, ice cream, etc...  I knew our kids would ask for slushies all weekend long...and ask to rent this or that, etc.  Jon and I were trying to figure out a way to counter that so we wouldn't be the bad guys saying no all weekend long :)  Plus, we were hoping to teach some life lessons into this opportunity.

God gave us a great idea!  At the beginning of the weekend, we gave the kids each $10 spending money for the weekend.  It was up to them how to spend it...if they wanted to buy $10 of slushies, they could.  If they wanted to rent paddle boats multiple times, cool.  It was their choice.  We told them that we would pay for one round of putt putt, one hour of paddle boat, and one hour of canoeing.  Any other activities or treats that they wanted, they could long as it was within their $10 budget.


It was AMAZING watching how the kids handled their decision making.  Daniel s-t-r-u-g-g-l-e-d.  He worried about not making good choices with his $10, almost to the point of giving us the money back because he didn't want the responsibility of making the decisions.  Faith was very careful and thoughtful.  Jolie...was ready to spend!  :)

Their planning evolved over the 4 days.  The first day, they all made plans with various ways to hit the $10 mark.  They also planned on getting a paddle boat and splitting the rental fee.  It was really cool watching them work together and findings way to stretch their money.  They counted and recounted their cash many times!

They asked if they didn't spend it all, could they keep it.  We said yes... it is yours.  The first day all 3 had their $10 spent (in a budget).  But by the third day, all 3 still had almost ALL of their money!

They each bought a $1 slushy and skipped the $1.50 slushy because it would just melt before they could finish a large one anyway.  After they tried the slushies, they decided they weren't worth the $1!  If WE had bought the slushies, they would have wanted the large and one each day!    

It was a great experience for them to understand that their wants will be unlimited, but they will have to learn to manage those wants with a solid financial plan.  They also learned that not everything is WORTH "THEIR" money :)

So, they each spent a little bit in the camp store, but had most of their money left at the end of the weekend.  The one round of putt putt and boat rental that we purchased was enough.  They decided that Culver's was a place WORTH spending their after camping, we head out for delicious!

We will be using this teaching technique with them in the future!  There are unlimited ways to use this tool.  It will be a great teaching tool to give them a clothing budget... and let THEM find the items that will meet their need.  Will they choose to get basics at a thrift shop or Target, but spend most of their budget on one pair of shoes?  I have no idea!!  It'll be fun to find out :)

 Isaiah 55:2:

Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
                      And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Life and blogging...

Real life has once again taken precedence over blogging, as you can tell from the sparseness of posts and the tardiness in sharing our story.  :)

There is a very short lull now before real life will need my full attention again, so I will try very hard to catch up the blog to current adventures.

Thanks for hanging in there with us!  We have many adventures and stories yet to share!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A new love: Black Hills, South Dakota

The kids...with Brutus and "home" sneaking into the picture :)

The day after we arrived in South Dakota was Mother's Day.  My family treated me to sweet notes, lunch at Longhorns after church, flowers, and lots of hugs and kisses.  I'm so honored to be the mom of these three amazing kids.  I'm so grateful they extend me so much grace!

After our BBQ dinner, they put on a show.
They wrote and sang a song about me, their MOM.
They are signing the "O" in Mom :)
From the moment we crossed into South Dakota, we knew we were going to be exploring a lot this week!  We love the Black Hills of South Dakota!  We had no idea there is so much to do here.  We'd love to explore all the drives and hikes that this area offers, but we don't have that kind of time.  So, off we go to the "must sees".

Day ONE:

Crazy Horse Memorial
For more information about the history, frequently asked questions, and more... check out this link:

Along with the memorial itself, there is an introductory film, museums and collections to explore.

A small chunk of the mountain.

A crafter's dream come true:  bottles and bottles of organized colored beads!!
These are beads that Native Americans use for their beadwork.
Daniel is standing in front of the finished sculpture that is the inspiration for the mountain behind it.

Mt. Rushmore National Monument

First glimpse of Mt. Rushmore!
We were very surprised at how excited the kids were to see Mt. Rushmore!  They kept saying how they couldn't wait to get there.
When Jolie first saw George Washington peeking out, she was practically in tears of joy.  She has seen Mt. Rushmore photos on cereal boxes and in movies and couldn't believe that she was actually there!!!!  Her excitement really made this National Park stop special.

The Avenue of Flags
We're finally here!!!!

After our excitement of finally seeing Mt. Rushmore, we headed to the visitor center to learn more about it and pick up junior ranger booklets.

Working on their junior ranger booklets in the Sculptor's Studio.
This is a to scale model of the mountain (which you can see right outside that window to the left.)
They used this model for the measurements they needed on the mountain.
The men working on the mountain did so sitting in one of these!
We hiked the trail to the base of the mountain:

Who do we look like?  Hm.....
George (DT), Thomas (JC), Teddy (F), and Abe (me)
We concluded the hike at the visitor center.

The visitor center was so cool...the kids got to set off dynamite!
Mt. Rushmore Junior Rangers
We got to Mt. Rushmore in the late afternoon so that we could experience the evening lighting ceremony. So after exploring the park, finishing the junior ranger program, and eating dinner...
we enjoyed the evening and waited for sunset.

Daniel reading from his new book:  Quotations of George the reflection of
the monument :)
It's time for the evening lighting ceremony!

The ceremony was better than we expected.  It was so patriotic!
A ranger led the program with some moving words about our country and the presidents.  Then we watched a film about the four presidents selected for the mountain.  All four men were incredible visionaries.  After the film, to patriotic music... the lights were turned on:

The ranger ended the program by asking all US military veterans to come down for the flag folding ceremony.  After the flag was folded, each of us passed it down the line while giving our name and branch of service.  It was a very moving moment for all of us.
Jon and I are in the back row of the group on the right.
There was a man standing in front of me in black shorts and brown shirt on the far left of the group.
Then you see me, then Jon.
Photographer:  Daniel
Team Monty had a wonderful day exploring one of America's most famous monuments.  We left with our hearts full of pride and respect for this great nation.