The Munchkins

Life with identical twins

National Parks

When kids are in fourth grade, they get a national park pass for free. It’s good September through August of their fourth grade year, so for my girls, it would be September 2017 – August 2018. I’m guessing they do this because fourth grade is a great age to hit the road and see the parks? Which makes me think maybe we should take advantage of this?

When we were driving through Arizona we saw a bunch of RVs that had Cruise America logos on them. Cruise America rents RVs, and they make it easy for you to rent them from one city, but return them in another. This would be perfect for our trip! Plus, they come in every size.

Ideally, and in my head, our trip would start maybe at the Grand Canyon? And then travel north through Utah hitting their parks, then Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, Glacier, then on to South Dakota and then home. I think. This is the very early stages of planning, but since this would be a month long trip most likely, I want to plan ahead so everything can be coordinated.

The big gotcha with this is that I can’t drive an RV by myself. I could drive it, but getting it into campsites and all of that without another adult would be impossible. Which means we would need to do this either with another person, or with another family. We’re taking applications.

So anyway – thoughts? Am I crazy? I’ve always wanted to do a bigger trip like this with my girls, I’m just not sure how to exactly make this happen!

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Lights!

Our weekend was packed full of things! Maybe a little too packed full, but that’s what happens this time of year.

On Saturday we hustled in the morning and got the house cleaned, and ran a few errands. After ballet we headed down to my grandpa’s house to spend some time with him. We were going to go out to eat, but ended up fonduing instead, since that’s everyone’s favorite. The girls were very excited, we haven’t fondued since Valentine’s Day? And! I introduced my grandpa to fondued shrimp! Which is now his favorite. We were done eating early, so we drove through the holiday lights in Mankato. They were beautiful! We waited for 45 minutes in line, during which my grandpa and I had some quality bonding time looking for a new cane for him on Amazon. When you finally get into the park, there is just nothing like seeing all of those lights! We’ll try to get back one more time so we can walk through as well.

Sunday was a lot of errands. Again we went to Target. The girls were all why?? Mama’s off her game girls, what can I say. In fact, I was off my game all day. They need new mittens, but of course we didn’t look for them at Target, but instead looked for them at Dick’s. They were out of anything remotely cute, so we are still looking. (JK! Amazon to the rescue.)

Once home I wanted to finish up our Christmas lights. Before we left for Arizona I put up the icicles and the net lights on the big bush. I thought it would take 15 minutes to put up the last string of icicles, and a few strings around the other bushes. Not so much. The new icicle string wouldn’t plug into the other strings, so I had to swap it out with a string so I could plug it into the main plug in. Once plugged in, I realized I bought regular lights, not LED which is apparently what I bought last year. There was one string of yellow lights in a sea of cool blue, which won’t do. Off to Home Depot to buy LED, but of course I bought a string that was twice as long as I needed. So once again, I took down the bad lights, moved the string from the end to that spot, and then put the long string on the end since there was extra room there. Caden and I also had to restring all of the bushes multiple times because I kept screwing up what plugged into what. It was a long day, but at least it looks good. Next year I’m throwing those icicles in the bin, and getting the pretty multi-colored round lights for the roofline. The cool blue throws everything else off!

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No School

I was going to do an Arizona wrap up post, but by the time I got done posting everything, I forgot what I was going to put in the wrap up! Guess it wasn’t needed. The girls are off school today, which means they are coming to work with me. I have to give a presentation in front of our office, which hopefully will be fun for them to watch? It’s more fun than work, but still.

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Monday. It was not super cold so Caden made the most of the last warm day and wore her vest. This was also cast removal day so we dressed strategically in a short sleeve t-shirt with a cardigan over. It took me a few tries, but I finally figured out what to wear to doctor appointments! (And in excellent news, so far from the bills I’ve received, insurance is covering everything but the copays for her broken arm. Current total – $3000 and that is missing two ortho appointments. I will likely pay $300. Thank you Anthem.)

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Wednesday. I’ve been trying to get them out of their t-shirt and jeans routine and wearing some of the dresses. As long as they wear leggings underneath, they work at school and gym class.

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Thursday. We shopped at Old Navy a few months ago and found some really cute long sleeve shirts that weren’t t-shirts. These are two of my favorite. Delaney is also wearing the shirt that Caden had on when she broke her arm. Luckily, it isn’t cursed.

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Horseback Riding

I’ve wanted to do a dude ranch vacation for years, but it’s never been the right time. Last year I started researching dude ranches in Arizona and there are so many! That may be a future vacation, but in the meantime, we decided to go for a two hour horseback ride to explore the Arizona landscape on four legs instead of two.

My dad found a ranch near Saguaro Lake and was able to go visit to see the horses and make sure things looked good. They had at least 50 horses, and were on federal land, although anyone can ride horse there. The scenery was amazing! The mountains on one side, Saguaro Lake on the other, and giant saguaro cacti everywhere.

I thought the girls might be bored just walking for two hours, and they were pretty quiet, but when we got off they were all smiles.

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Cast! Off!

Caden got her cast off today! Four weeks and four days after getting it on. Bummer for her four weeks landed on Thanksgiving, but she toughed it out.

Overall, she did amazing with the cast. She had a few days in the middle where she really got down about it. Luckily, our trip came at the end, so the last 10 days were away from school where she didn’t have to worry about all of the things she was missing out on. In Arizona she swam, she rode horse, and she did all of the things that Delaney did. It also made me very happy that this happened in the fall, because by the time we left her cast was starting to get stinky from the sweat.

Should you ever know someone with a cast, tell them to get a cast protector. One nurse told me to do a bag, one told me to use press and seal wrap, and the doctor said to get a cast protector. Ours came from Walgreens and I’m so glad he told me about them! She took baths, she took showers, she swam, and it kept her cast dry every time, even if she submerged it. Total life saver.


The cast removal was very quick. We were in and out in 20 minutes. First, they cut through the hard layers of the cast on both sides.


Then, they broke apart the cast. After that she took a scissors and cut through the cotton layers. Two quick x-rays and we were done! However, once the cast was off Caden was holding her wrist and arm in a really weird way, that made it look like it was still broken and wavy. That did not give me confidence. Also, the second x-ray still showed the break, and I thought for sure we were in for four more weeks of cast. Turns out, bone was growing, just on the other side of the break. Phew. I was very much prepared for the worst!


She has a brace that she’ll wear at school for the next three weeks. Her wrist is very sore right now. She practiced piano for 10 minutes and had to put the brace on after. I’m hoping once she starts using it she’ll gain strength quickly, but she seems very hesitant to use it right now. We shall see.

Happy birthday Dad!

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Home and Butterflies

We’re home! We flew back Friday night. Our flight wasn’t until 6:20pm which gave me plenty of time to pack, as well as go for one last walk and swim. Getting home Friday also gave us the weekend to unpack and Christmasfy our house. The tree is up, the house is decorated, and we have two bags of decorations that just don’t work in this house for Goodwill. We also made it to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them! LOVED IT. What an amazing movie. J.K. Rowling is an astounding storyteller. Delaney’s face was lit up through the whole movie. I was a little worried about Caden, but it was mostly loud. I kept telling her it was like the Avengers, and that seemed to help.

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Monday was supposed to be rainy, so we headed to the Butterfly Garden and aquarium. Both are relatively new, and were only 25 minutes away. The butterfly garden was very similar to the one at Como Zoo from this summer, but much much bigger and with a lot more butterflies. As soon as we walked in they started landing on Caden, me, and my mom.

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It was crazy! One of the big blue butterflies landed briefly in my hair. I tried to remain calm but it was a very bat in your hair kind of feeling. Luckily, he moved on quickly.

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We wandered all around the garden, but the butterflies wouldn’t land on Delaney. We finally realized it was likely her black t-shirt. Who knew? She was heartbroken, and having been through this before, I did not want to leave without her getting to experience this. We wandered away from the others, stood by the spots they were feeding, nothing. A few circled her, but she got nervous and flinched and they flew off. I went to find Caden and of course, that is when one landed on her! Luckily my parents were there and saw, as did she. That and a little food, and she was good to go for the day. (I was ready to lie at this point, she was so close to tears.)

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They loved my mom. She probably had 10 butterflies land on her.

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Unfortunately, these are the only photos I got at the aquarium. It was too dark! Even with my ISO bumped all the way up. The premise was that you followed a drop of water through the rivers (upstairs was all of the fish and animals you would find in rivers), and the main floor was the fish and animals from the ocean. Lots of great exhibits!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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Happy Thanksgiving! I have to say, our change of location to Arizona worked out very well this year. I could definitely see this being our yearly tradition. We got a gorgeous, though windy, day with lots of sunshine. My mom and Sue divided up the dishes so no one had to cook like crazy.

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We had appetizers on Sue & Mike’s deck, since their outdoor area was sheltered from the wind.

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After eating we rested, then hit the pool for some swimming. There was no one there! We thought there might be a few other families that would swim between meals, but we had the pool to ourselves. The girls even got to go in the hot tub (can’t when other people are around because it’s against the rules).

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And my mom caught a little nap while we swam. For two minutes until she realized Sue was sitting in the corner.

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Grand Canyon – Day 2

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Grand Canyon is about 4 hours away from where my parents live in Arizona. At the end of the first night we were debating whether or not you could drive up, see the canyon, then drive back all in the same day. You could do it, but it was really nice being able to see everything again in the different lighting. We all agreed that just one day wouldn’t be enough time there.

On Saturday we made dinner reservations at El Tovar, which is the nice hotel that has an excelelnt restaurant. 8:00pm was the earliest time they had, but after hiking for two hours, we knew no one would make it that late. We cancelled and went there for breakfast instead. It worked our perfectly. We got there early and were able to get a table by the windows with a view of the canyon. The food was amazing! Everyone loved their food. I would definitely recommend it! Also, all of the restaurants were super accommodating for the gluten free or vegan people. They had gluten free bread, muffins, bagels, and they were knowledgeable. It was really nice. One guy went completely out of his way to make sure I knew what my options were.

I really wanted to see a sunset and a sunrise. Unfortunately, the way the village is situated, it’s hard to see either. You have to hike out a ways one way or the other to have a clear view. We decided to just get up and see what we could see. While we couldn’t see the actual sunrise, the colors were spectacular.

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This looking glass was so cool. If you put it in the groove and lifted it up, it would zero in on a landmark. Each groove listed the landmark that you could see. We spent a solid 15 minutes here on Saturday looking through it, then another 15 minutes on Sunday. I loved the simplicity of it!

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After breakfast we hiked down the canyon a bit on the Bright Angel Trail. My dad tried, but he didn’t make it far. My mom went on a little further with us, then stopped and waited. The girls and I went a bit farther, and that was when Delaney started talking about wanting to go all the way down. You could see people farther down the trail, and she was really intrigued by the idea of spending the night at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Someday!

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I bought Delaney a $10 pair of binoculars on Saturday. On Sunday my mom bought another pair because no one wanted to listen to them fight over them.

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It was supposed to be really cold Sunday morning, but the cloud cover from Saturday kept it fairly warm. It was brisk when we first started hiking, but we all quickly shed our layers. I love this picture but why on earth didn’t I take my sweatshirt off!

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I took a few different shots of my parents for their Christmas card. I’m lobbying hard for this one.

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Everyone! My dad took a ton of pictures for other people, so we finally asked someone to get ours. Love this.

We drove through Sedona on the way home. The drive was beautiful, and we stopped in town to get a snack and wander around a bit. It started raining and with Caden’s cast, we had to get back to the car, otherwise I think we would have stayed for longer. There were a lot of cute restaurants and we wished we had timed it so that we were driving through closer to dinner time. We had hoped to get out and hike and take pictures of the red rocks, but the rain was really coming down with no signs of stopping, so we headed home.

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Grand Canyon – Day 1

When I was looking at flights last spring, they were significantly cheaper if we left the week before Thanksgiving than if we flew out the week of. I called my mom and asked if it would be cool if our stay was a little longer? And we both agreed it would give us the perfect opportunity to hit the Grand Canyon. None of us had been before, it was just never a trip on anyone’s list. I did some research but honestly, we all said the next time we head up there we would do a few things differently.

The one thing we got right was staying at the Maswik Lodge. In case you’re like me and don’t know how things are set up, there is a Grand Canyon Village with five different hotels. I believe Maswik Lodge is the only one without views of the Canyon, but given that the sun went down at 5:20, we knew that wouldn’t be a big deal. The rooms were fine, we were only a five minute walk from the Canyon, and the Cafeteria was fabulous. We’d definitely stay there again.

I did some research on hikes, but most of the info out there was more on the hikes that go into the canyon, and not necessarily about just walking around the rim. I knew there was a shuttle that ran, but I wish we would have hopped on the shuttle right away and rode it out, then walked back. We wandered the trail, but we didn’t go as far as I would have liked because the sun was going down and we needed to head back. Next time.

The weather was mid-50’s while we were there. We dressed in layers, wore gloves and hats, and were totally fine.

My parents are both fairly scared of heights. I didn’t know that before the trip. My mom did fine, but my dad was really freaked out. He didn’t like the girls too close to the edge, and when we hiked down into the canyon on Sunday morning, he only made it about 20 yards before heading back to the top. The second day we managed this better, but on the first day both of my girls were scared by how scared/nervous my parents were. If you have people in your group that are scared of heights, definitely figure out how you’re going to handle that ahead of time. Caden couldn’t figure out if she too was scared of heights, or if she was just taking on their fears.

Pictures!

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As we walked up to the rim, this was our view. It is certainly breathtaking.

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My dad was really good about making me get in the picture!

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Caden was the map reader this trip. She was very into it, and kept going over our route.

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Look at how happy my children are! There were at least two other families there spouting similar “We did not drive this far to just sit in our room!” missives to their children. Delaney was mad that Caden was always the leader, although truthfully, she was probably just hungry.

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Where we were, there were the red/purple parts of the canyon straight ahead, and then the cliffs off to the side that were more brown with green trees. I tried to get both backgrounds in our pictures. While I’m partial to the red/purple parts of the canyon, I do love this shot.

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Seriously. How amazing is Mother Nature. Those stripes! That canyon/river thing that’s running through (it’s the Bright Angel river I think?). I loved it all.

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Delaney was very excited to climb this tree and pose!

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It was just after sunset and Delaney had gone ahead with my parents. The purple colors and Caden’s purple sweatshirt, I had to take a few pictures. This was also right after we finally found a pair of binoculars for the girls and they could not stop using them. It was super adorable.

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Arizona – Hike #1

My parents have retired to Mesa, AZ for the winter. Luckily, they are at the base of a fair number of mountains so there is great hiking nearby. Friday morning we headed to a regional park to hike the San Tan mountains. It was gorgeous weather, and I really wanted to get in a hike before we headed to the Grand Canyon.

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Once my parents bought their place in Arizona, a bunch of their friends did as well. I love that they have so many friends to be active with!

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There are so many majestic saguaro cactuses everywhere!

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A few years ago my dad checked out a cactus like this. The barbs famously “jumped” from the cactus into him. It’s kind of a running joke, except that’s totally what this cactus does. We made sure to stay far away from it!

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It was a very sunny day. Shortly after this picture I noticed Caden was melting a bit. It wasn’t very hot, but she was so excited for this trip she was a little short on sleep and food. I ended up giving a lot of piggy back rides on the way back.

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So many cool trees, so many cool photo ops!

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The girls have held my hand everywhere this trip. It’s not something they do much at home, so I’m savoring it!

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