The Badlands

Doesn’t that name just sound cool? “The Badlands.” It sounds like something straight out of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie.

We spent two or three hours driving through Badlands National Park after we left Wall. The canyons and landscapes we saw were absolutely beautiful. Kai and I went into the center there and got to see some archaeologist working. But the beauty of the place… I don’t even have words for it, so I’m just going to leave a whole bunch of pictures (Clicking on any of the pictures will take you to bigger versions. Worth it for the panoramics.)

I hope you enjoy them.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

The One With The Giant Heads

Originally, when my family started talking about moving to Indianapolis, we asked Kai if there was anything he’d like to visit. His request? Mt. Rushmore.

We started planning how we could get that in. Then, Kai found out that they don’t have really big glasses. And decided he didn’t want to go. If you’re confused, don’t feel bad. I was at first, too.

Blame Phineas and Ferb.

Roosevelt's_glasses

We decided to go anyway. Then, we had the incident with the cat and the gas station. And we’d decided we couldn’t go. Then, when we were on our way to Wall, we discussed how it really wasn’t that far away.

So, during late lunch/early dinner, we decided we’d drive out there to see Mt. Rushmore. Mt Rushmore

I still think it’s pretty incredible that someone saw a mountain and decided, “You know, I’d like to stick a few faces on it.”

We went, we took a few pictures, watched a short film about it, and headed back. I enjoyed going. You can see it pictures and everything but you don’t realize how huge it is until you’re there and realizing, “THAT’S HUGE.”

We got back to the hotel late-ish that evening. The next morning, we set out for the Badlands.

Mt. Rushmore

Sacrificial Celebration Cake to honor one month in Indianapolis.

Making cake

Mixing the ingredients.

A month ago today, our family arrived in Indianapolis. We wanted celebrate somehow and when Sandra Dodd brought up her page on cake as sacrifice, a page I’d read before but particularly spoke to me this time, we decided to make a cake today. We’ve been calling it the “Sacrificial Celebration Cake”.

This cake was a bit of a sacrifice. Kai put in a lot of hard work making this cake (I helped, but only minimally). And then, there’s the cost of the ingredients (because, with our food allergies, cake is not cheap – and money is tight right now). But also, there’s the concept doing something specifically to honor something that’s pretty big for us.

Making cake

Decorating the cake.

Note: this is not in any way a “religious offering”, but I do think that it does people to good to honor and celebrate things – big events, rites of passage, even just the passing of time. So we’re celebrating. Because we can and because it makes us happy.

Sacrificial celebration cake

Happiness is making a Sacrificial Celebration Cake… at least it is today, anyway.

And even though we’ve had some struggles getting here, we’re happy to be here.

The One With The Jackalope and The Giant Dinosaur Head

After we finally got some sleep in Missoula, we rearranged our trip. We realized that the cats could probably take no longer than six or seven hours in the car, so our trip lengthened a few days. Jackalope at Wall Drug Store

Missoula was beautiful. I loved our view from the hotel. It was really the first place I thought, “Wow. There’s so much sky!” There was also a really awesome dinner place called “Fat Cat” that able to accommodate our food allergies and sensitivities. I had a french drip for the first time in YEARS. We ate there for dinner after we woke up.

The next day, we set out for Billings. So, the thing about Billings is that there’s really nothing for me to say about Billings other than I wasn’t a fan. It was very industrial and our hotel staff was rude. The hotel was kind of cruddy itself, too. It was a place to rest our heads after driving across Montana. (Montana’s a really big state!)

After Billings, we headed out for Wall, South Dakota. On our way, I kept seeing these billboards advertising “Wall Drug Store”. Two things were weird to me about the billboards. One thing was that, in Seattle, most billboards have a “frame” around them and are high up. Probably because traffic is so bad, they want you to actually see it! The second thing was that they were all really kitschy. Things like “FREE ICE WATER” or “COFFEE 5 CENTS” and signs with dinosaurs or cowboys. Dinosaur at Wall Drug Store

We DID end up going to Wall Drug and it was so completely… an experience all unto itself. They have a huge animatronic head, lots of shopping areas, a restaurant area or two, and… a jackalope. That was kind of fun!

The other thing that Wall itself had was… Wait. I should back up: While I was booking hotels, I noticed that the ones in South Dakota were oddly expensive and oddly full. Then, once we hit South Dakota, I notice that, gosh, there sure were a lot of bikers out and about. Maybe they had nothing better to do? Maybe they were camping or something?

Well, at some point, Joe mentioned. “Oh. Sturgis is nearby.” Thanks to the power of internet on our phones (truly, that is an awesome invention), we discovered that we were going through South Dakota right during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. They have right around 400k people attending annually. We saw lots of them on the road. All the bikers I met were really nice (I’ve had some biker friends and they’re almost always super-friendly).

As we were eating a late lunch at Wall Drug, we made a decision to go see something we’d previously decided not to see (although we’d originally planned to see it before we’d rescheduled our trip)… Mt. Rushmore.

Covered Wagon at Wall Drug Store Riding Toy at Wall Drug Store

The One With The Cat Crap And The Really Scary Gas Station

We had planned on taking three days to drive across the country. Joe and I would switch off driving every three hours. He’d take the first morning shift every day because he’s the morning person. I’d end up with the late shift that way, which works well because I’m the night person. We decided that we’d try to have the kitties take bathroom breaks on the road, whether it was in a bathroom or just at a rest stop and bought a suitable plastic container for the litter. We researched. We booked hotels ahead of time. I knew, roughly, where we’d be taking our breaks every day.

It was perfect.

It was doomed to fail.

In retrospect, I don’t know what we were thinking. We wanted the cats to be upset as little as possible, but our plan put the cats in the car for sometimes as much as twelve hours a day. And Parker… well, we knew he “didn’t travel well.” But that’s actually part of WHY we tried to push so hard, so he’d have to deal with it as little as possible.

The problems started, actually, on the day before we left. We rented a truck to move our things into a impossibly tiny small moving crate that would be shipped across the country. Both rentals were from a company that rhymes with “You-Stall” and I’m calling it that because when you use them, you stall your progress on your move. Or, at least, that’s what happened with us.

Unloading the truck

Kai, unloading the moving truck.

We lived roughly ten minutes from a You-Stall location. So, that’s where we ordered the truck and the box and that would have been fine. Only… it wasn’t. It REALLY wasn’t. They called to let us know that, hey, the box we ordered? It wasn’t there. They had one across town, though, so we could use that.

That’s a problem. A really big problem. Because getting across town in Seattle is often difficult. Traffic is never what I’d call “good” and often what I’d call “not moving much” or “hellish”. Guess how traffic was that day? HELLISH.

So, after we loaded the truck, which, of course, took longer than we’d thought, we spent an hour sitting in an area locals often “The Mercer Mess”… and THEN we hit freeway traffic. And then, when we got to the facility, they informed us that, oh, hey, we were told your order cancelled so we don’t have a crate out. It’ll be a bit.

Dinner at Denny's

Kai and my mom, at Denny’s.

Then, the loading… took longer than we hoped. And it was hot. And not everything fit, so we had to make some heartbreaking decisions about what to leave behind. Additionally, by the time we were to that point, the facility was about to CLOSE so we couldn’t unload and reload it in a better way, based on what we were leaving behind.

After that ordeal – and quite an ordeal it was – we tried to return the truck there. No can do. Apparently, it was a “local truck” which means it had to be returned to the facility. Once again, traffic was bad. Our phones, which we were relying on, were dying. My mother, who had come to help us, had some blood sugar issues and her phone was dying and she doesn’t actually spend a lot of time in the city, so I was worried about her when she went to get something to help her blood sugar.

By the time we dropped off the truck, it was late-ish. We needed food. But with food sensitivities and allergies, the places we could go were somewhat limited, unless we wanted to spend a lot of money. So we drove across town to one place we thought would work. We paid for parking and… they were closing early due to something that happened down the street (or something).  So we drove, again, across town, to a Denny’s, because we know that although the grease can cause us issues, we typically don’t have some of the other issues that we have from a lot of restaurants.

Then, we drove home, said goodbye to my mother, and went to bed.

So, that was “the day before”.

Mt. Rainier July 2014

Mt. Rainier.

In the morning, we woke up late. Because we were out late the day before. And we still had cleaning and such to do because the stuff the day before took ALL DAY. So we didn’t get on the road until late afternoon. This would have been fine… except that we had a long way to go. The first day, we had planned to drive from Seattle, WA to Missoula, MT. And late afternoon means rush hour in the Mercer Mess.

Sunset on Mt Rainier July 31, 2014

Sunset on Mt. Rainier.

Remember when I said I knew Parker didn’t travel well? He cries most of the way. He will, even under sedation, bash against the carrier trying to get out. He has BROKEN CAT CARRIERS. Impressive feat for a cat who, until recently, was very tiny. Before we even moved them to the car, Parker was crying. Sometimes, his crying encouraged the other two to join in. We were serenaded by a cacophony of cat cries.

Bathroom on Mt Rainier

The tiny bathroom.

On Mt. Rainier, we stopped and brought the cats into a bathroom, hoping they’d go. Of course, the didn’t. I think we tried again later, but I can’t remember for sure. We knew they weren’t going to go in the litter box while on the road. We ended up trying to drive as much as possible without stopping for breaks until absolutely necessary. It was helpful that Kai drifted off to sleep and the kitties slept some, too.

At roughly 1:30 a.m., we were on the road in Idaho, when suddenly, a cat starts mewling, horrendously. It’s Parker. Soon, he’s joined by two other kitties. Just a Kai start going, “UGH,” the stench hit the front seat. Parker had had an accident. We’d planned for wet accidents. We hadn’t counted on cat crap.

We pulled over at the first available exit and pulled into a gas station. Without a doubt, this was the CREEPIEST gas station I have ever been at. It was dark. The gas station was closed and there was only one main light on. It was in the middle of some woods in the middle of nowhere. There were no lights ANYWHERE nearby. The whole time we were there, I was certain something awful was going to happen to us.

It was creepy. It was so creepy. Did I mention that it was THE CREEPIEST GAS STATION EVER? It was like the beginning of a horror movie, when something breaks down and the main characters end up somewhere they didn’t mean to be. Like a dark gas station. In the middle of nowhere. With a cat that runs off…

Parker in the crate

Parker in his crate.

We take the cats out of the car and start trying to get them to use the litterbox while Joe is cleaning out the box. There were a million paper towels used. Luckily, we had a spray to work on cleaning the box with.

Then, Hanners, who has always been pretty skittish, managed to slip out of her harness and run under the car. Lots of worrying and trying to coax her out ensued. Finally, she came out for her favorite human, Joe. (Thank goodness… she could have ran off into the woods and been gone for ever. She’s the only one of our cats with no claws and she definitely wouldn’t be okay on her own.)

Eventually, we were able to get back on the road. After a time change and a bunch of construction and what has to be the WORST freeway ever (I-90, I’m looking at you) and some extra stops so really sleepy drivers can trade off, we finally arrive in Missoula…

…at about six in the morning.

View from our hotel in Missoula

The view at the hotel, later in the day. Missoula was gorgeous.

So, Joe checked us in and booked an extra night. The “next day” (really, it was later the same day), we would re-arrange our trip and rebook all our hotels.

Until then… sleep.

We’ve moved to Indianapolis!

At the end of July, we packed up our home in Seattle and drove across the country to Indianapolis.

Trip from Seattle to Indy by car. July/Aug 2014.

A map of our trip across the country in July/August 2014.

The original plan was to do it in three days. The original plan… got changed. It ended up taking longer than we anticipated, but in some ways, that made our trip better.

I’ll go into more detail about why it ended up taking us long and what we did during the trip on other posts, but I wanted to let everyone know that we’re here in Indiana, we have an apartment, and we’re starting to settle in. Even the kitties have calmed down and settled in (the poor things hated the car).

I’m looking forward to seeing what Indianapolis has in store for us.

Burying his Mama’s ashes on Mt. Rainier.

When Kai’s mother died and was cremated, he was so sad that she was cremated instead of buried. For several weeks, he’d periodically use his play tools to pretend to build a coffin for her “so she doesn’t have to be burned up”. Later, he would go on to talk about how he wanted “Mama to return to the earth.”

Her ashes were divided up and, through a series of odd and frustrating circumstances, it took several months before Kai got his portion of her ashes. Nobody was quite sure what to do with them, so for a few months, they sat until the time came when he could decide what to do with them.

Yesterday, it was time.

We were going up to Mount Rainier. The ashes came with us.

When we found the right spot, Kai put a picture of him and his Mama in a little hole. (The picture was printed on regular paper so it would be more biodegradable.) On the back of the picture was written “Mama and Kai”.

Burying his Mama's Ashes on Mt. Rainier

Burying his Mama's Ashes on Mt. Rainier

Then, he helped his dad pour the ashes in. He was surprised at how white they were.

Burying his Mama's Ashes on Mt. Rainier

Kai put a tiny red flower on top, because her favorite color was red. His dad refilled the hole for him.

Burying his Mama's Ashes on Mt. Rainier

He topped it with a special rock he’d brought from home. On the rock, we wrote “Mama”.

Burying his Mama's Ashes on Mt. Rainier

Kai sat looking at it a few minutes…

Burying his Mama's Ashes on Mt. Rainier

…before deciding it needed a flower.

Burying his Mama's Ashes on Mt. Rainier

Then, after looking at it, he decided, “The rock needs to point to the mountain.” He spent a long time adjusting things.

Burying his Mama's ashes

Burying his Mama's Ashes on Mt. Rainier

Finally, after much thinking, he was satisfied.

Burying his Mama's Ashes on Mt. Rainier

We asked if he wanted to say anything. He said no. We gave him a few minutes alone.

Burying his Mama's Ashes on Mt. Rainier

Then he rejoined us for the hike back out. “Maybe in the future, people will find this. And they’ll know.”

I cannot think of a better eulogy.

Burying his Mama's Ashes on Mt. Rainier

Watching Paint Mix at Home Depot

On Friday, Kai and I went to the park with one of my sisters, M. She had a couple of hours in-between school and work, so we had lunch at Carkeek Park and Kai played with some other kids before we took her to work.

I wanted to make sure we got her there on time, so we arrived about twenty minutes early.  As I was about to let her out of the car, she said, “Do you want to come see how we mix the paint?” Kai was agreeable, so off we went.

Home Depot was fun and a bit overwhelming to Kai. I don’t think he remembers having ever been to a place like that – we live in an apartment and the last time I remember us going into a home improvement store was in July 2012. That was a third of his lifetime ago!

Something I did not know: house paint mixing is now computerized/automated. This makes sense, but I hadn’t thought about it. My sister, however, talked us through how the paint is mixed, while we watched. (The woman in this picture is not her.) They put the paint in a slot in the computer and various different colors come out and mix into the white paint.

June 6, 2014

Then, they put it into a machine that shakes it. The machines in this picture are for large cans. There’s a much smaller one for the paint samples (smaller amounts you can buy to try it out).

June 6, 2014

After we were done in the paint department, we stopped at the carpet samples. Kai thought they were really neat. He liked touching all the textures and was a bit annoyed that I said we couldn’t pick out new carpet to replace the carpet in the apartment.

June 6, 2014

I hadn’t considered before how much fun a place like this would be for Kai. He also got to touch a lot of tiles, which he thought was very interesting. Towards the end, he got overwhelmed, so that was when we left.

This is the kind of thing that unschooling is all about: to allow ourselves to be fascinated by something that’s often just a chore, something people often overlook.

Unschooling gives us the the freedom to stand around and watch paint mix.

My May 2014 Minsgame Wrap-Up Post

I did it. I got rid of a LOT of stuff. There was stuff that was gotten rid of that didn’t make it into pictures… but even if you just count the required number of things each day, I got rid of 496 items.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • I don’t like to get rid of things, but it feels good (usually) to have done so.
  • I have far more crap than I thought I did.
  • Things that I think will be super-important to me often aren’t.
  • Saving a ton of printouts of things isn’t particularly helpful. It’s difficult to find them/access them since there’s no index or anything.
  • Mixed media/mail art is both lovely and wretched in that nearly anything CAN be used. But a lot of things often AREN’T.
  • I really like how it feels with less stuff in the house. I want to be more careful with what I keep or even just bring into the house in the first place.
  • We still have a lot of stuff to “downsize” or “declutter” before moving.

Have you ever done a major decluttering? How’d it go for you?

In case you’re interested, I’ve included pictures all of the “official items” that I got rid of last month, during the game.

May So Far, In Pictures

May 1, 2014

May 1, 2014

Kai's Creeper Drawing

Kai’s Creeper Drawing

At his grandparents' second home, "Whispering Moon"

Drove to Wenatchee. This is at his grandparents’ second home, “Whispering Moon”. May 2, 2014.

Breakfast at Dizzy Dee's

Breakfast at Dizzy Dee’s. May 3, 2014

Having a snack during the Apple Blossom Parade

Having a snack while watching the Apple Blossom Parade

Apple Blossom Parade

Watching the Apple Blossom Parade

Free Comic Book Day

It was also “Free Comic Book Day”. So we popped into a comic shop in Wenatchee and this is what Kai picked up.

At Carnival

At the carnival.

May 3, 2014

He was heartbroken that he he couldn’t do the bumper cars on his own, but Nana helped him.

Apple Blossom Festival Food Fair

Corn dog and an elephant ear.At the Apple Blossom Food Fair.

Chilling after a long day

Chilling and playing phone games.

Breakfast at Shari's

Breakfast at Shari’s with Nana. May 4, 2014

Playing a giant Connect 4

Playing a giant Connect 4 with Nana.

Playing Tsuro

Playing Tsuro with Nana.

Playing Gravwell

Playing Gravwell with Nana.

Video chatting with his Aunt Melissa

Video chatting with his Aunt Melissa, who he last in September.

Waiting for dinner at South

Waiting for dinner at South, drinking root beer with cream on top.

Back home over the mountain. SNOW!

Going back home, over the mountains. SNOW!

May 5, 2014

After being away from his real cats for a weekend, he’s been attached to these three stuffed cats. May 5, 2014.

May 6, 2014

Talking about a Stampy Longnose video. May 6, 2014

May 6, 2014

On his way to Homeschool Park Day.

May 6, 2014

He wanted his cat to be able to look out the window.

May 6, 2014

May 6, 2014

May 6, 2014

May 7, 2014

May 7, 2014

Kitty love.

Golden Gardens

At Golden Gardens.May 8, 2014

Golden Gardens

He climbed all the way to the top for the first time.

Golden Gardens - Kai's at the top!

After his success on the pirate ship, he had the confidence to climb to the top here.

"This is the life." - Golden Gardens

He kept saying. “”This is the life. Me and my mother, on the beach, eating ice cream things. This is the life.”

Kai "buried" my legs.

Kai “buried” my legs.

Then I buried Kai's legs!

Then I buried Kai’s legs.

Golden Gardens

“You buried my legs more than I buried your legs! It looks like I have no legs!”

10 Days in the USA

10 Days in the USA

Toy Time Race Game

Toy Time Race Game

May 8, 2014

Sometimes, I can look at him and see the teenager he might one day be.May 8, 2014 

May 9, 2014

May 9, 2014

Baker's Reward

Baker’s Reward

Meatloaf

Making Meatloaf

Game night

Playing Tsuro with our gaming group.

He fell asleep in there while dressing

After staying up so late, Kai fell asleep while trying to get dressed in the morning. May 10, 2014.

YardMaster

Playing YardMaster.

Angry Birds puzzle

Working on an Angry Birds puzzle.

Playing a file folder game

Playing a file folder game.