Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.








At the exit for the Badlands, we saw a sign for the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, so we decided to hit that first. We were lucky enough to show up early and get tickets to a tour later that day, so we decided to drive the Badlands loop and head back for our tour.

We later realized it’s apparently tough to get those tickets, fortunately we were at the right place at the right time. Approaching tour time, we drove to a very average looking building and awaited the story. This place didn’t disappoint, in fact the boys liked it better than the Badlands! I enjoyed it for its serious time warp feel. The building was very late 70’s/early 80’s with typewriters, floppy discs, and a full brown board menu complete with hash browns and burgers. But the real tour starts 30 feet underground.

During the Cold War, Air Force staffed this facility ready to launch a missile at a moments notice. Two men/women were locked inside a concrete bunker for 24 hour shifts. I can’t even imagine the stress level of this job. They monitored codes printed out daily to see if they matched “launch” while they lived down there. They had beds, chairs, and little else, save for a two-week stash of food in case the war began.

My older son enjoyed the tour, asking several questions. I was glad for that as I was a severely shy child who was never brave enough to speak up, no matter how badly I wanted to know something. He even pointed out that the “launched” light should have been green, duh?, not red.

The ranger was great, really engaged in his job. I just love when people love what they do. So, the boys, Dear Husband included, all really enjoyed this stop. I have mixed feelings on these types of things. Namely, this was built to create destruction, yes? Walking through the museum helped me digest the situation more clearly. No matter our feelings, this IS part of history and I never like to miss out on learning about it.

Badlands National Park.






Back in June we planned on taking the boys to South Dakota. We planned for late September, which  usually lends great weather for traveling.

Our first stop was Badlands National Park. It was directly on the way to our campground and a nice break in a full day of driving. While heading through the park, Little Fella started begging for the camera. He clicked that thing off like a wild man! I never had so many shots on one disk!

We saw two goats, no other animals. We drove through mid-day and it was pretty hot. I’m not surprised the animals weren’t roadside. Still, the boys enjoyed the new terrain, compared it to Minecraft, and shot loads of photos.

We spent enough time to entertain ourselves and scooted along for our destination.






We have separate rooms now. We installed the insulation and are working on finishing up the walls. I’ve been taping, mudding, and sanding. It’s a messy job. Dear Husband has been running electric in his shop, smartly steering clear of drywall jobs, but the boys do like mudding for a tiny bit. Together we all painted and installed (not the boys on this one, it’s 10 foot ceilings) the tongue and groove (car siding) ceiling. It’s fabulous.

We had the propane tank delivered and filled, we’ve got all the guts piped and run, now it’s just a matter of walls and finishing. It’s hard to see large progress now, because the changes are small. It’s in the details. It is exciting to get closer to those finishing touches that will be forever visible. It’s nail-chomping to see if we made the right choices too. Will the black kitchen cabinets look as awesome as I hope?

All in all, it’s home-ish and I’m getting excited.

Socks and Another Blanket.



I knit my very first pair of socks. Socks! I am just so excited because they are legit! They look awesome, they feel awesome, and they are useful. Should I mention I scored the yarn at a garage sale? Well, I did. While I dance through my super tiny Airstream (so more like shuffle in one spot) and ponder the cold weather ahead, I will plan for the family. Yes, they are all getting a pair. My 10-year old is getting the same pair since our feet are exactly the same size. (Craziness!) Ribbed socks number three is coming soon, meanwhile I’ve started Little Fella’s requested blanket.

Inspired Writer.

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We saw the Goosebumps movie last week. We all loved it. Little Fella is the one who discovered the trailer a few weeks ago. He showed me the trailer, which was darn funny, we got it from the library and it didn’t disappoint. We are working a bit backwards here because we haven’t read any Goosebumps books. Little Fella has now started reading the graphic novels at night. (Yikes, I would NEVER have been able to read scary books before bed as a child, I don’t care how tame they are.) He’s loving those.

The next step? To write his own, but of course. He grabbed a stack of fresh paper and decided he’s got a tale to tell. (We won’t get into the use of “Goosebumps” in his title, I’ll hold off on that lesson for now.) He’ll sit at the table and impressively print with a steady hand. Then he’ll ask if I’d like to read any, which I of course do. Sometimes he’ll find me if he’s stuck. We’ll talk out what options the characters have and he’ll dash away to record his next section. He’s got a full-page and a half done so far. (He’s excited it will be his first non-illustrated book, he’s moving on from his illustrated superhero books. Sigh.) Anyhow, it’s very fulfilling to see him enjoy reading, writing, and sharing his own (R.L. Stine inspired) ideas.

Baby Steps.

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Every day Dear Husband and I wake up and work. We work, eat lunch, work, eat dinner, watch the Olympics and sleep. Seriously. Every day. The boys help and have some great feedback. Little fella said he’s happy we’re getting the electric installed because we will know what every single switch is for, sadly an anomaly from our other homes.  Our older son will also pitch in. They’ve both learned to frame, drywall mud, and handle the drill more skillfully. This is absolutely a family project.

Each day I think we’ve made huge progress but then I see the long list of things we still need to finish. Instead of getting overwhelmed I just think back to a month ago and how little we had done. It puts things in perspective. It helps me digest this process evenly.

Our recent baby steps included installing bathroom exhaust fans, having our heating installed (still being done), having the electric boxes hung/holes drilled for wires (he’s still working too), and installing stairs (we are working on an upstairs railing – the upstairs of our house will be dry storage). A huge leap was having our rough plumbing complete and inspected. We actually have running (cold) water!

This huge project makes me appreciate the small steps that lead to giant progress. Half a railing leads quickly to a whole railing and yet another trip to the lumber yard for more supplies. A stack of drywall becomes a wall when sealed with tape and mud, and gives our space true form. Sweeping up the wood chips and dust on the floor at night makes me smile as I picture the future cabinets laying in waiting.

And we wake up and do it day after day. It’s the baby steps.

Chicago, IL.








Being raised in the Chicago suburbs, I am no stranger to this city. However, it’s been a really long time since I’ve been. While driving back from Sonoma, in a bad mood because 1. our trip plans were trashed because 2. we had flooding in our storage building, I talked to my sister on the phone. Instantly she perked up.

“You’re coming home? What about going to see Coldplay?”

It didn’t take me long to go from cranky to excited. So, the week after we started organizing our stuff and pouring that concrete floor to prevent future flooding, I drove to my sisters and we headed downtown.

We parked right between Millennium Park and Soldier Field and started walking. We saw The Bean, we saw Buckingham Fountain, we hid in a hotel lobby to cool off and shockingly noted the weather at 103 degrees. I texted photos and messages back to Dear Husband and the boys throughout the day. I laughed when he texted back, “You look sweaty.” Apparently our hair was getting wetter and hugging our foreheads the later it got.

We took a taxi to Eataly. This unique grocery store/restaurant/café was a fun lunch spot and accidentally broadcasted some terrible news (to me). We were sitting diagonally from the Shriner’s building, which sadly is now a Bloomingdales. I made my sister go inside to congeal my depression. I used to come almost annually to the circus here as a girl. Now it’s a department store. I hung my head.

Even worse, terrible clouds were rolling in and the storm projections looked undeniably against us. We made it to the concert dry and evacuated to the rain shelter to wait out a lightning heavy storm. While we hugged the wall, we hoped the weather would quit sooner rather than later. Fortunately we only missed the opening acts.

I have no good photos because cameras weren’t allowed. My cell phone photos are painful, so let me just try to explain it. Every patron wore a radio controlled light bracelet. The stadium lit up in one solid glow of yellow (for “Yellow”) or white (for “A Sky Full of Stars”) to compliment the songs. Sometimes all the bracelets pulsed multi-colors. There was confetti and lights and fireworks and even balloons. It was the best produced concert I’ve ever seen (although I’ve not seen many).

We made it home by 1:00 AM and I trucked home to my family (and brother who was helping roof our coop and garage) who made fun of me for liking Coldplay. There is no chance any of these boys will like Coldplay. It’s a darn good thing I have a rocking sister!

Making Home.








We’ve been talking about this since we left Tennessee, the flooding just made us get to work. We have farmland in Southern Wisconsin which had an unlivable house on it. Last July we knocked it down. This July we started building our own.

I’ll spare you the mundane details of permit getting, vendor finding, etc. We got that all in order and got to work. In WI we are not allowed to install our own electric, plumbing, or HVAC. Anything else we can. Going pioneer style, we are building, literally swinging the hammers and erecting the walls, our little house in the country.

Every single day we work. All day. All tiring day. With our small square footage we are making huge progress quite quickly. We decided to build living space inside a metal pole building. Here’s where we are with that.

First, we paid someone to install windows. They peeled the metal off, framed in windows, and reinstalled the metal. Then we paid to have colored concrete poured as our flooring. We’ve had the septic system installed and the yard shaped via bulldozer to prevent future flooding. We paid to have the building insulated. We framed the interior walls and erected the i-joists. We’ve fixed the chicken coop roof with metal Dear Husband bought at auction. Currently, I’m drywall taping the exterior house wall while the plumber, electrician, and HVAC professionals do their thing. Family has been out helping too.

I feel like our full-time job is shopping at Menards. We are there too often. Equally though, we are busy, busy, busy sawing, nailing, screwing, creating. It’s like the best craft project ever! We’re repurposing some things from the old house too. I just can’t wait to share the end product. Stay tuned.

(This is moving along pretty quickly. We have plans to travel again, but we wanted to get our final stop in order.)

Sonoma, CA and then…






DSC_0104Before we left Tennessee we planned on taking our oldest son to any NASCAR race he wanted to. He said he wanted a road course, which was Sonoma CA or Watkins Glen, NY. We were heading to CA at just the right time of the race, so we thought we’d try that. (It was pretty fabulous that brother-in-law got our tickets for us. Thanks!)

It was California, June, and no shade, so yes we piled on the sunscreen like you’d never believe. We also chugged water and played happy sitting on cement blocks. (Sonoma race track, I’m here to tell you that cement blocks as stands is odd.) However, my oldest son sat still the whole time and watched every move. He was very happy, which in turn made us all very happy. Little fella even said he’s “getting more into racing because of his brother,” but I did leave the stands with him a few times.

Before the race the boys dutifully explored the vendors/sponsors tents. They created lego race cars and had some friendly racing rounds. We won glasses that Little fella donned, a hat, and a tape measure.

Our on site camping was overpriced. Unfortunately, our weekend neighbors were foul-mouthed college somethings who didn’t want to sleep. Fortunately, we were so tired from walking and sunshine we passed out pretty easily.

After the race, we got to walk the track. The boys found some lug nuts which make darn cool souvenirs.

We were driving to Redwoods State Park and received a phone call. Our metal shed storing our “stuff” flooded behind it and it was leaking into the building. Three more weeks in California were dashed as we hung an east instead of a south. It sucked. I kept thinking about everything we planned, what our boys would miss, how it would take very long to drive to California again. I was not happy. Then our truck exhaust broke. Ugh.

It is what it is. We took care of the flooding and are very fortunate nothing was ruined. We also decided to stay a while at our property in Wisconsin and get to work building our home. Seems like now is as good a time as any.

Jelly Belly Factory, Fairfield, CA.





On our way to the Sonoma NASCAR race, we passed by Jelly Belly and saw they have factory tours. Well, of course we had to check that out.

The factory tour was an enclosed catwalk that toured us above the operation. We read signs and ran into a few employees to answer questions. We were very curious about bean boozled beans. (Have you played that game? It’s quite yucky…and funny.) We were told by employees it smells awful when they make the horrible flavored beans. We were shown piles of dog food flavor below. Insert gag motion here.

The tour was quite quick and oddly backwards. Meaning, they make you tour through the packaging first, the mixing of the beans, and so on back to the beginning. We were given free bags of beans, and bought a few as well.

I love to stop at factory tours to give the boys a sense of where things come from. However, I’m not sure this place is a good destination. Just a fun stop on the way. Fortunately, that’s how it worked for us.