Last week I decided that if everything worked out, I would make a quick 1 night trip to Great Falls to see my mom. It would have to be that because of all the other various appointments and activities our family has going on.
So, on Sunday night I had all the kids pack one outfit and a pair of pajamas.
However, Monday AM hit and the house was a disaster. One hard rule I have is that I do my very best not to leave home with a messy house. I absolutely hate coming home from somewhere to a messy home. So, we spent several hours Monday morning cleaning the house.
By the time the house was cleaned, the kids fed, the van packed, and us ready to drive away it was noon. So, it was a late start to the trip.
We arrived at our Holiday Inn Express just before 6. What a fantastic place that was! We chose the hotel because it has a 3 story water slide. It also has a reasonable size pool, hot tub, and a kiddie swim area. We got a room with 2 queen beds and when I asked for a cot they moved us to a “suite.” Which was perfect, since it meant we were on the 3rd floor across from the stairs and against the wall by the pool…meaning, no neighbor to our left or across the hall for my rowdy crew to disturb. The “cot” they brought was actually a very nice and comfortable single bed. The breakfast was great too. Sausage, eggs, biscuits, gravy, cereal, juice, pancakes, yogurt, fruit, muffins, donuts, cinnamon buns, to name a few…needless to say, my children ate well and the hotel may have not been expecting little people to be able to eat so much!
My children all enjoyed the water slide immensely. At least after I sweet talked the life guard into letting my not 4 ft tall son go down the slide anyways, and after a generous bribe (or reward or encouragement) for my timid youngest daughter to go down the slide once. That was all it took for her though. After one try, she was hooked! She LOVED the 3 story slide and couldn’t get enough.
We tried to meet up with my mom for dinner, but she works nights and slept through our calls. That night I got the flu. I was sick all night. Much to my children’s delight I decided to stay an extra night. We met up with my mom late that morning and eventually went to our favorite restaurant, the Golden Corral. There my kids ate well, and ate more dessert and cotton candy and ice cream than is at all healthy, but as usual they loved it.
We went shopping a bit. Where I discovered that several of my children have been wearing clothes that are too small. I don’t know why my kids can’t just tell me when something doesn’t fit. Oh well, we fixed that.
Then back to the hotel to swim for the next 4 hours. Yes, 4 long hours. Good thing the hot tub was across from the water slide! Finally they all slept well.
We met my mom again for breakfast and off we went, to make the long trek home.
All in all the trip was good. It had it’s share of dicey moments, but my kids were good (at least when it counted). They were patient when I was ill, they fed themselves when necessary. And they were reasonably kind to each other.
So, we made it home. Yes, we missed 2 dentist appointments, but the smiles on my kids’ faces made it worth the fact that it only happened because I was too sick to drive!
So, the kids got a visit with their grandma. Grandma cleaned her house into my van (all 9 boxes – thanks mom), and I got 5 kids with big smiles and musical laughter filling the air. That’s a good trip by any measure I suppose.
Last summer a friend of mine named Pam brought her 2 girls to my son’s 4th birthday party. The gift she brought has turned out to be one of the best gifts we have ever gotten!
She took a cardboard file box, filled it with construction paper – neatly sorted by color, and then added a pack of markers at the front.
My son has taken this box on two LONG summer road trips, every road trip, and many many days on the school bus ride with me.
It has given him and his siblings and bus friends countless hours of entertainment.
So for a great birthday present…cardboard file folder, construction paper, markers 🙂
My children have been diligently collecting and earning their Jr. Ranger badges at all the national parks we have visited on this trip.
So when looking at things to do it was a no-brainer to take them to Rocky Mountain National Park. The road through the park (Trail Ridge Road) is breath-taking. It has parts with zero shoulder and sights that take your breath away!
At one time it was the world’s highest paved road. It no longer has this distinction. However, I remember the breath-taking beauty I saw as a child. So I decided to share it with my own children.
We went on several hikes. We saw herds of Elk, a moose drinking in a lake, a flock of wild turkeys, deer, antelope, and countless birds, bunnies, chipmunks, squirrels, and other creatures. The drive was slow, and we never were wanting for something to see.
This park is probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen! It is so beautiful we drove through it twice.
We decided to spend several days in Denver Colorado. I chose to camp at my old stomping grounds…Chatfield State Park. The park looks very much the same as it did when I was a kid. The park has pay showers for $.50 for 3 min. And a great swim beach. It is $22 a night and even has laundry for $1.75 a load.
The kids did the jr ranger program here and earned their fifth Jr ranger badge. Their program book is actually the most in depth of all of them so far.
We spent the first day here walking around downtown and doing the tour of the Molly Brown house. Molly Brown house tour was around $30 for the 7 of us. However it was a really interesting tour and I’ve always wanted to so it so it was money well spent. It took about 45 minutes.
I was sad to see that the state capitol was being refurbished so the kids didn’t get to see the gold dome. However there was a major bike tour race so we did see that. It was fun walking around downtown Denver again with my family this time.
We ended that day by going for a late lunch-early supper. We went to my favorite restaurant as a kid…Casa Bonita. After going again as an adult it is still my favorite restaurant! The Mexican restaurant is a fantasy world for kids. There is cliff diving, gun fights, pirate fights, gorilla escapes, pinyata for the kids, puppet shows, and more. Adults eat for between $13 and $15 (all you can eat) and kids eat for $5. Drinks are just over $2 each and free refills. It is extremely affordable. If you want more stimulation you can purchase tokens for their arcade. As well they have a pirate cave you and your kids can explore. It is a fantastic place to go!
We spent our second day by first driving to Georgetown and then taking the train on the Georgetown loop and doing the tour of the old Lebanon Mine (a silver mine). It was super fun. It took about 3 hours and cost about $35 for adults and $27 for kids.
We decided to stop for lunch at a little place in Downtown Georgetown called the Happy Cooker. It was fantastic food.
Then we drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park and drove through the park stopping at the lookouts and stopping several times for hikes throughout.
It was a really fun day!
Today we spent the day at the beach here when we weren’t taking Jason to the airport to catch his flight home. It was super fun!
Yesterday we spent the whole day at the sand dunes. We hiked up them and attended a ranger talk on bugs and animals of the park.
Who knew that there are 14 insects found only here; nowhere else in the world.
Luckliy for us the heat was broken up by a thunderstorm. Watching lightening over the dunes is beautiful.
After the kids watched a movie on the sand dunes and finished their papers to earn their jr ranger badges (apparently there’s 400 they can earn) we returned to the campsite for a late lunch.
During the rain we read the book series we’ve been working through. Dragons in our midst. We finally finished the second book. Now we’ve begun the third.
We roasted Turkey dogs over the campfire in the drizzle and then when the kids returned from their exploring we went back to the dunes. It was dark and we wanted to see if we could see any nocturnal bugs or animals. We heard lots but didn’t see too much. We did see someone high on the dunes so I flashed them a few times with our flashlight so they could see the right way to go. They thanked us when they got down. I did see a kangaroo rat, kind of a mouse like thing that doesn’t drink, burrows, and jumps over 5 feet high.
It was a great day full of interesting experiences.