Roadschooling

Texas State Parks Part 2

This post covers the next two state parks we visited in Texas. If you missed part 1 you can view it here: Texas State Parks Part 1.

Monahans Sandhills State Park (my personal favorite of the 4)

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This park was all about sledding on sand dunes in the middle of west Texas, and it was so much fun! Our campsite was right at the dunes and we were able to head out and go sledding from our site.

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Notice Fat Cat on the sled with Jake. 🙂

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The dunes were so pretty, they looked like snow.

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Resting… climbing up those hills is exhausting!

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The boys made their own water slide at our site.

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I loved the look of the ripples in the sand!

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The sunsets were amazing!

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Along with the almost full moon on the other side…

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Not to be outdone, the sunrise was pretty spectacular too!

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In the morning the moon was on the other side.

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Fat Cat came out to wander around with us while we were out in the early morning watching the sunrise.

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I hated to leave Monahans (I loved that park!), but it was time to move on.

Balmorhea State Park

Next we went to Balmorhea State Park. You can swim in the San Solomon Springs pool at this park. The spring-fed pool is a constant 72-76 degrees year-round, but if the outdoor temperature had not been so warm I doubt we would have been brave enough to go for a swim. Thankfully the weather was really hot while we were there so the pool was very refreshing.

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Jake jumping off the high dive.

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I loved swimming under water and looking at all the fish. Some parts of this pool go as far as 25 feet deep!

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This was my FAVORITE underwater picture I got! Jake and I tried so many times to get a good picture of him under water, and we finally got this one. I love it!

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There was a little wetlands area over near our campsite where we could watch turtles, fish and ducks, and a beautiful sunset.

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We loved visiting some of the Texas State Parks and hope to come back and visit some more another time. If you plan to camp for more than a night or two at any of these parks it is recommended that you purchase a Texas State Parks annual pass for $70. Otherwise you have to pay a daily entrance fee for each person in your party. That would add up quickly after just a few days.

 

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Texas State Parks Part 1

We recently stayed at 3 Texas State Parks and visited one other. This post will cover 2 of those parks.

Mustang Island State Park

Mustang Island near Corpus Christi was a great place to stay to visit both Port Aransas and Padre Island National Seashore on the Gulf Coast of Texas because the park was located halfway between each location. The park itself is just okay as it is basically a parking lot and the sites are very close together. We were blessed with the best site in the park though on the end so we did not have anyone camped on our outdoor living side.

We spent one day at Padre Island National Seashore which was beautiful. This park was about 15 miles south of our campground.

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At the visitor center we learned about sea turtles and why there is so much trash on the beach. Because of where this beach is located within the Gulf of Mexico, trash washes up on the beach constantly. The boys earned their Junior Ranger badges here and one of the activities was to pick up trash on the beach. This ranger was really nice and helpful as the kids filled out their booklets.

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Vehicles are allowed on a long stretch of this beach so we drove out onto a section and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon relaxing on the beach. Unfortunately some vehicles drive way too fast down this beach though, so you have to be really careful not to get run over!

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We spent some time on the beach behind the campsites where we stayed on Mustang Island also.

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Port Aransas is a cute beach town about 15 miles north of the campground. We spent the afternoon at Roberts Point Park which has a couple of playgrounds, picnic areas and lots of areas for fishing.

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I loved watching this huge ship sail by as dolphins jumped and played in the waves made by the ship.

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Two other Fulltime Families joined us at this campground which made it even more fun. We enjoyed a pot luck dinner, an afternoon at the movies to see Moana, a birthday celebration and more. The other 2 families each have 5 kids so with our 2 we had a total of 12 kids playing in the cul-de-sac at the end of the campground road. They had foot races and bicycle races and played games at the picnic table.

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After leaving Mustang Island we headed up to Kerrville near San Antonio and stayed at Jellystone Park of the Guadalupe River. This was one of the nicest Jellystone Parks we have been to. We had a beautiful site backed up to the river with a jump pad right behind us. Of course the boys loved that!

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Jesse and Chris playing catch

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Jake walking Fat Cat

This park also had a brand new mini golf course that was beautifully landscaped and an indoor pool with a hot tub. They are in the process of building a new water park with water slides and splash pads. It was not open yet when we were there, but it looks like it will be really fun once it opens in time for this summer.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and National Historic Site

While we were in Kerrville we spent a day in historic Fredericksburg and visited the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park which was fantastic.

At this park  you can tour the ranch where President Lyndon B. Johnson was born and raised. He and his family are also buried there.

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One room school house where President Johnson attended school.

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There was a hangar and landing strip right on the ranch property.

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Connected to the ranch is the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm. Here you can tour the farm house and property where costumed interpreters carry out daily chores as if they were living here in the early 1900s. We learned about what life was like there on the farm over a century ago. One of the Sauer children served as midwife at President Johnson’s birth.

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These ladies taught us about the farm and kitchen, as well as duties that kids would have had in those days like collecting eggs. They sent us out on assignment to collect some eggs, but we didn’t find any.

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Jake busy working on his Junior Ranger book

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Earning some more Junior Ranger badges:

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Posing with a picture of the former president and first lady

On our way back to the campground we passed by the town of Luckenbach and since we’re country music fans and love Waylon Jennings’ song “Let’s Go To Luckenbach Texas” we had to stop in for a couple of pictures.

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This post has gotten quite long so I’ll stop now and write about the next 2 Texas state parks we visited in the next post. Stay tuned…

 

 

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USS Alabama Battleship

The last 2 times we passed through Alabama we stayed in Gulf Shores. I had wanted to visit the USS Alabama battleship but we didn’t make it either time. So this time through Alabama we stayed right in Mobile, only 5 minutes away from the battleship which made it easier to make sure we got around to touring it.

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Our good friends from Fernandina Beach, the Norstrem family came to join us for the weekend and we all toured the ship together.

USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park is a really neat place to visit for the whole family. You can tour almost the entire ship and climb on everything which is lots of fun for the kids. They also have a naval aircraft museum and a submarine to tour. It costs $15 for each person aged 12 and up, $6 for ages 6-11 and 5 and under are free. Although we all enjoyed our time there, we weren’t excited to have to pay for 3 adults now that Jake is 12. It would be more affordable for families if the children’s prices applied to all children, not just under 12.

Anyway, we still enjoyed our time there exploring this ship which served in World War II.

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Charlie got the award for the most excited of the day, he is really interested in battleships!

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The interior was really cool to walk through. We saw living quarters, kitchens, laundry facilities and even an ice cream parlor! It was hard to imagine what it must have been like for those living on this ship during such an important time in our nation’s history.

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They have rooms like this for scouting troups to spend the night on the ship. That would be quite an adventure!

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After touring the battleship we walked through the naval aircraft museum.

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And then toured the submarine.

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I have to say, if I was in the military I think I would prefer living on the battleship over the submarine. I can’t imagine being underwater for so many months in such cramped quarters!

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We stayed at Meaher State Park right on Mobile Bay which was so beautiful, and enjoyed gorgeous sunsets most evenings. Chris & Ken wasted no time in getting into a cribbage game as soon as they got there.

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It was a nice surprise to meet my friend Doug’s brother and sister-in-law Ron and Brenda who were also staying there that week. We had fun playing dominoes with them one night and Ron is very good at entertaining kids with trick questions!

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One other fun thing we did that week was to visit the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center. We were able to get in free with our reciprocal zoo and science center membership. We met up with another family there that we had met 2 years ago at a Jellystone Park.

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After a great time in Mobile we spent a few days in Louisiana and then headed to Texas.

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Fulltime Families Tally Rally

We attended our 5th Fulltime Families (FtF) rally in Tallahassee, FL at the North Florida Fairgrounds. Affectionately known as the “Tally Rally”, this was the biggest rally we have attended so far at approximately 85 families. I have to admit, being an introvert, I was quite overwhelmed by this many people at first. When we first pulled into the giant field where we all camped for the week, I really had second thoughts about whether or not we should have come. But I needn’t have worried about that. Within an hour or so some good friends from previous rallies stopped by and we got out and about meeting old and new friends. We ended up having a blast!

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Here is a cool video that a rally attendee made early in the week:

The rally week started with a field trip to the Mission San Luis where we were transported back to the year 1703 and learned about how the Apalachee Indians lived.

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The next day we had a field trip to the Tallahassee Museum and Tree to Tree Adventures. The boys had their first experience on a ropes course. Jesse was not yet tall enough for us all to do the larger ropes course with zip lines, so Jake and Jesse did the ropes course for smaller adventurers. The larger one looked like lots of fun so once Jesse is a little bit taller we will look for a place for us all to do this together.

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Besides the ropes courses, the museum was fun to explore. It was more like a zoo and gardens.

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One of the really fun activities for kids at the rally was building a box city. Many thanks to the mom who came up with this idea! It was a big hit with all the kids. They built a city out of boxes and then had to sell stuff and earn “money” to spend at other businesses in the city. Some of the kids thought it was funny to commit crimes so they would be arrested and brought to the city jail. 🙂

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One afternoon some of the adults played bubble soccer. This was hilarious to watch! Chris played, but I did not. It looked pretty dangerous and painful, and you even had to sign a waiver in order to play because you could get seriously hurt or even die. No thanks, I’ll just watch. 🙂

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One evening the moms attended a Pampered Chef party, other evenings were spent having potluck dinners followed by games or dancing. After all the other festivities, we usually could be found at one of many campfires around the fairgrounds while the kids ran around and played until they crashed from exhaustion.

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We had such a great time at this rally! If you are a fulltime traveling family or planning to be, I would highly recommend attending one of these rallies. For us it has been a great way to get to know other families living this lifestyle.

 

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50th Anniversary Celebration

When we left Montana at the end of August, we had exactly 6 weeks to make it back to Charlotte, NC for a very special occasion. We covered a lot of miles in those 6 weeks! The special occasion was a party for my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. Not many people these days can say they’ve been married to the same person for 50 years. That’s quite an accomplishment and I’m so proud of them.

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The party was held at the Extreme Ice Center in Indian Trail and we couldn’t have been happier with the excellent customer service we received there. Many friends and relatives came in from out of town and we appreciate all of them so much, as well as all of the local friends and family that came out to celebrate with us! It was so much fun spending time with people that we haven’t seen in so long.

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Pre-party festivities at Mom and Dad’s house

My amazingly talented brother-in-law Chris and my sister Cheryl put together a really awesome video highlighting my parent’s story beginning from their dating years. There were a lot of really funny parts to the video and I love the pictures Chris captured here of everyone’s laughter.

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We had wonderful food, dancing and lots of laughing.

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My beautiful Mom with Cheryl and me

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Group picture with my mom’s sister Jackie and her brother John with wife Patty

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Lifelong friends: Jim & Beverly and Fred & Rita

After the party we went back to Mom and Dad’s house for some more family time. Yes I’m wearing pajama pants in the picture below. After a fun-filled day I was ready for “happy clothes”. 😉

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My Aunt Jackie… I love her!

After the action-packed party weekend, some of us went to Hilton Head Island to continue the celebration for a few more days. We stayed in a really cute rental house together and had lots of fun playing games and just spending time together.

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My Chris (my brother-in-law is also named Chris so I have to distinguish by saying “my Chris” and “Cheryl’s Chris”) prepared a fabulous dinner one night for everyone including crab legs, salmon and steak.

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One day the guys played golf while Cheryl & I took the boys for a bike ride, and the rest of the ladies went shopping.

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One thing that made this trip extra special is that Chris & I were celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary that week and it just so happens that we were married in Hilton Head. We visited the Westin Resort where we were married and showed the boys the “scene of the crime”. 😉 Our wedding took place to the left in the picture below where the green roof is.

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Westin Resort, Hilton Head Island, SC

The week-long celebration was such a wonderful time for all of us! Next we headed back to Florida.

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The Ark Encounter and Creation Museum

We met up with some other Fulltime Families at the Indian Springs Campground in North Bend, Ohio to go on a couple of field trips to the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum.  The ark and museum are in Kentucky, while our campground in Ohio was across the street from Indiana where we ate dinner twice that week.  It was kind of funny being in 3 states several times that week.

We had a beautiful campsite on a lake where many ducks visited our site daily for food.

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Fat Cat loved watching them.

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Since we started traveling my bucket list included visiting the Creation Museum in Kentucky, and then I heard they opened the Ark Encounter in July which made it even more appealing.  When we lived in Florida we used to attend the FPEA Homeschool Convention every year where I would attend Biblical Creation talks by Answers in Genesis.  I have missed that since we moved away, but I was excited to be able to finally visit the Creation Museum by Answers in Genesis.

I don’t have a lot of pictures from the museum other than pictures from the outside petting zoo.  They had these strange looking animals called zebroids.  Have you ever heard of such a thing?  It’s a mix between a zebra and a horse (a zorse) or a mix between a zebra and a donkey (a zonkey).  Jake is a huge fan of zebras so when I first saw these animals I was about to say, “Hey Jake, look at the zebras!”  But then as I looked closer I wasn’t really sure they were zebras.

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The kids liked the petting zoo.

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And the outdoor botanical garden with the suspension bridge was really fun.

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Most displays at the museum include a lot of reading.  That was fine for me, but kids quickly lose interest.  The museum is done really well with displays on evolution, Adam & Eve, the Fall, the Flood, all the way up to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It very clearly describes human history from a Biblical perspective and explains the origins of various people groups, racial differences and languages.

There were some interactive displays which were great for kids, and the outdoor area helped to burn off some energy.  Below is a picture of an interactive game for the kids to help design the ark.

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The Ark Encounter was really amazing and very hard to describe.  It’s something you really just need to see in person.  It’s so huge!  It is built according to the specs in the Bible, so you really get an idea of just how they could fit all those animals on it.

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Inside there were many displays to show you how Noah and his family might have stored food.

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There were also many displays to show how they could fit all these animals into the ark and how they would feed them.

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There were displays to show how they may have prepared food.

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And what their living quarters might have looked like.

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This display shows Noah and his family praying to God.

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This one shows Noah and the dove returning with the olive branch.

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There was even a display showing these crazy, wild looking animals, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. 🙂

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The door to the ark was huge!  Touring the ark gave me a better understanding of just how large it was and how there was plenty of room for the animals (large and small).  Of course large marine life like whales did not need to be on the ark.

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This sign really spoke to me.  I firmly believe in the Bible, the Holy Word of God, but I know many people do not.  Heaven and Hell are real places and my prayer is that all of you reading this would not be deceived, but know that the Bible is true.

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Visiting the Ark Encounter answers all of the skeptic’s questions like “how did they fit all those animals on the ark?”, and “what about the dinosaurs?”, etc.  The museum and ark encounter scientifically lay out all of the answers to these questions and more.

If you plan to visit, keep in mind that the museum and ark are about 45 minutes apart.  When you buy a combined ticket, you can spend 2 days at the museum and 1 at the ark.  Because they are not right next to each other, you should definitely plan on a separate day for each one.

A week after we went there, another Fulltime Family went and wrote an awesome blog post about their visit.  I wish I would have had their post to read before we went.  If you plan to visit, please read this first.  It is a great post about how to plan your visit for kids of all ages: Faith Takes Flight.

 

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Mall of America and Birthdays on the Road

Last October I went to Minneapolis for work for a few days.  You can read about that post here: The Smokies with a side trip to Minnesota.  While I was there I went to the Mall of America and later came home and showed my kids pictures of the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park that is inside the mall.  Ever since then they have been wanting to go there.

After leaving South Dakota we headed to Minnesota.  I was able to go into the office one day while I was there.  It’s always nice to see people I work with face to face sometimes.  I feel very blessed to work with some awesome people that I really like to spend time with.

Jesse’s 10th birthday was that week and guess where he wanted to go for his birthday?  Mall of America of course!  Sometimes people ask me how we do birthdays on the road.  Actually we were never really into the birthday party thing when we lived in our sticks and bricks.  We always preferred to celebrate birthdays by taking a vacation to Disney World because that’s just how we roll.  So now on the road we just try to plan our travels through an area with something fun to do as a family.

We went to Mall of America twice that week.  One day I took the kids to the Crayola Experience in the mall.

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I found a Groupon for 50% off and I was able to get in free with my homeschool teacher ID.  What could have cost $60 (it’s normally $20/person) ended up only being $20 for all 3 of us.  Score!  I wasn’t sure if my kids would like this place because they are getting older and I wondered if it may be a little too young for them.  But they loved it and we all had a great time!  We spent about 4 hours there because there was so much to do.  I was really impressed by all the activity stations and how much creativity is involved.

At the first station you make your own personalized crayon.

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Then you make a coloring page featuring your own picture!

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At another station you make something out of clay.

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In this section they could color with markers.  Jesse’s sign shows his love for his family, Jake’s on the other hand shows he could use a little humility. 😉

After the Crayola Experience we went to the Lego Store where the kids could play with lots of Legos.  Check out the amusement park in the background!  That was for the next day.

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So the next day my baby turned double-digits… 10 years old!  How can that be possible?  I can’t believe how quickly they are growing up on me.  Chris took the afternoon off work and we spent the day at the Nickelodeon Universe inside the mall.

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First of many roller coaster rides

The log flume ride was my favorite!

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I think the kids liked the bumper cars the best.

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This ride was pretty fun.  With your controller you can make it spin or go upside down.  I’m not a big fan of spinning, but it was still fun.

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I love roller coasters and this one had upside down loops and corkscrews.  It was really fun!

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My cute birthday boy!  He kept telling me several times throughout the day how thankful he was that we took him there for his birthday.  He is so sweet and it melts this momma’s heart to hear him express such gratitude.

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Ferris Wheel

We were all pretty amazed at how many rides they can fit inside a mall.  We bought the unlimited rides wristband that my boss was able to get a great deal on.  And we sure got our money’s worth!  We stayed until they closed and only took a break for dinner.  And since it was a weekday we practically had the place to ourselves and never had to wait in any lines.  That’s a nice benefit of homeschooling and September birthdays.

Jesse said this was his best birthday ever.  Now how am I going to top that next year?  Hmm…

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Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park

After leaving Glacier, we stopped for a couple of nights in Whitehall, Montana at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park.  This was so nice because we really missed staying at state parks.  While we were visiting Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier our only options were crowded RV parks.  Pulling into our site at this state park was a welcome change.  Look at all that space!

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Lots of room for Chris and the boys to play.

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And Fat Cat loved it too!

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We did the cavern tour while we were there which was really cool.  This is the entrance to the cavern.

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Inside the cavern is a small slide that everyone on the tour has to go down to get to the next section of the cave.  It was a lot of fun and the highlight of the tour for the kids.  Sorry the picture is blurry.  It’s hard to get a good picture of kids in motion in the dark!

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A few cave pictures.

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I liked the room all lit up in purple!

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This was a beautiful place to spend a couple of days after all the fun we had at Glacier.

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After this we moved on to Cody, Wyoming and visited the east side of Yellowstone from there, but I already wrote about that as part of my posts about Yellowstone.  You can read about that here: Yellowstone: Fishing Bridge and Cody, WY.

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Yellowstone: Hiking Mt. Washburn

On our last day in Gardiner, we hiked Mt. Washburn.  I heard great things about this “must-do” hike from a couple of different bloggers including this one: The Best Hike in Yellowstone.  I’m glad we took his advice.  It was a beautiful hike!  It is a little over 3 miles to the summit making it a little over 6 miles round trip.  The uphill climb was hard work, but the views were so amazing it was worth it!

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A ranger lives at the top during the summer in the fire watchtower.  Below the ranger’s living quarters is a type of small visitor center that you can go in and look at maps and information about what you are seeing off in the distance.  You can even see Grand Teton from up there on a clear day!

We got a very early start that morning to make sure we could find parking at the trailhead.  The beginning of the hike is through meadows and you’ll see lots of wildflowers.

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As you get closer to the top it becomes more rocky and barren.  In the picture below you can see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

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This is the view from the watchtower.  So beautiful!

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I actually thought hiking back down was even more stunning, probably because on the way up I forgot to occasionally look behind me at where we had been.  When I remember to do that, I realize sometimes the view behind us is even better!  Since this was an up and down hike, hiking back down I saw all the views I missed on the way up.

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This certainly was one of the “best hikes in Yellowstone”!  I have one more post from our time in Yellowstone about our visit to the Fishing Bridge section on the east side.  Stay tuned!

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Cochiti Lake Recreation Area

While visiting northern New Mexico we stayed at Cochiti Lake Recreation Area.  This has got to be the most beautiful site we have ever had.  I could never get tired of these views!

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The morning after we got there we woke up to a very cold morning and an amazing view of snow-covered mountains off in the distance.

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I was super excited to find out that the Boyink family of Ditching Suburbia was staying at the same campground for the first few days we were there.  I have been following their blog since before we “ditched suburbia”.  What a treat to have the chance to meet them in person and get to know them better.

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Just before we took this picture with them, we got to admire this awesome rainbow.

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There was so much to see and do in this area, and no way to see and do it all in the time we were there.  I guess we’ll just have to come back again someday.

While there we did make it to several fun places including Tent Rocks National Monument, Santa Fe, and the Turquoise Trail.  They all have their own blog posts.

We also met up with some other Fulltime Families in the area for a couple of roadschooling field trips.  It’s always fun to find out there are other FtF’s nearby.  We went to the ABQ BioPark Zoo in Albuquerque.

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And the Explora Science Center also in Albuquerque.

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I sure will miss the spectacular view at this campsite, but at least I know we’re moving on to more spectacular views.  I love this nomadic life and the constantly changing scenery!

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