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You’ve seen the pictures and you know all about the iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but have you taken your family to visit here yet? If not, planning to bring your family to this attraction could be a trip to remember! This was one of the greatest places we visited along our RV trip across America.

Here are some tips to help you when planning your visit to Mount Rushmore.

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  • Plan to come as soon as the Memorial opens at 8:00 am. We got some amazing photos in front of the memorial before the crowds arrived. The lighting on the Monument is best in the morning as well.
  • Your National Parks annual pass is not needed here as the entrance is free.
  • Parking does cost $11 but allows you unlimited entry to the Memorial for the calendar year.

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  • This masterpiece, blending art and nature, is far more than a tourist attraction. The National Monument is open year-round closed only on Christmas Day. We loved walking through the Avenue of Flags displayed in alphabetical order.

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  • The 1/2 mile Presidential Trail begins at Grand View Terrace, travels to the base of the mountain, past the Sculptor’s Studio and loops back to the Grand View Terrace. The second half of the trail does include approximately 450 stairs.

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  • The outdoor amphitheater just behind the information center holds many ranger programs. In the early morning, it’s a peaceful place to sit and read the history behind what you are looking at!
  • Be sure to have your kids pick up their free Junior Ranger activity booklets at any information desk in order to receive a badge upon completion.

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  • Be sure to come back in the evening too for a totally different experience. The Evening Lighting Ceremony is an inspirational program focusing on the presidents, patriotism and our nation’s history. Beginning with a ranger talk, the program includes a short film and culminates in the lighting of the sculpture. The program begins at 9 p.m. early in the summer and at 8 pm in August and September. Check here for correct times.

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  • We saw this flyer in town and decided to make our way to the monument for a 3rd time- for Sunday morning worship service. It was an amazing morning! Check out Christian Ministry in the National Parks to see what they are all about!

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Come visit George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln here in the Black Hills of South Dakota. You will be amazed at the beauty and serenity of Mount Rushmore in person!

Love Sign Philadelphia

With Valentines Day just around the corner and red hearts adorning my home, love is in the air. No matter our age or stature in life, we all share a common thread in our need to feel loved to best succeed in life. But, how good are we at demonstrating our love to those who mean the most to us?

The 5 Love Languages is an amazing tool that I use in my daily life. It’s truly life changing to figure out the love languages of your children and spouse/partner. Different people express love in different ways. This Valentines Day your loved one may buy you flowers when what you really want is a romantic dinner out on the town. Perhaps you’ll cook him a home made meal when he really would just love to hear how much you adore him. Or maybe you both want to go to one of the most romantic places in the world, New York City. Where there is plenty of things to do for both of you to enjoy your Valentine’s day. The only problem is that you haven’t told each other. And the miscommunicated love goes on and on… unless we learn one another’s love language. I think quotes are a great way to show how you’re feeling to one another and an easy way to start learning each other’s language of love. There are loads of quotes at lifehacks on this topic which you can use to express yourself.

I think it’s even more important to learn the love languages of our children. Go figure that each of my four kids receive love in four different ways. I knew their personalities differed but who knew that the way they feel loved is uniquely their own as well. Definitely keeps me on my toes!

According to Gary Chapman, the author of the 5 Love Languages Series, there are five specific languages of love:

1. Words of AffirmationThis language uses words to affirm other people. These are the people who are always complimenting you and showing you love through their words. This is definitely not my love language, but it seems that it’s a very popular one with many of my friends and one of my sons. It’s very important to tell these individuals how wonderful they are any chance you get!

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2. Acts of Service- For these people, actions speak louder than words. Dad’s love language is Acts of Service. We all know this and love serving him coffee as this makes him feel loved. Going out of your way to do things for individuals with this love language is important!

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3. Receiving Gifts – For some people, what makes them feel most loved is to receive a gift. Do you know that person who is always giving you thoughtful gifts? This son shows his love through buying his little Sis a surprise gift in New York City.

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4. Quality Time – This language is all about giving the other person your undivided attention. Yep, this is me. Make a plan to spend one on one time with me and my tank is full! I’m even willing to take silly selfies if that’s what spending time with my eleven year old daughter entails.

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5. Physical Touch – To this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch. Do you have a child who loves to cuddle? The one who is always pushing around his siblings and giving high fives to his friends. Physical touch is the way to their heart.

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HOW DO I FIGURE OUT MY LOVE LANGUAGE?

Start thinking about what might be your personal love language and then those of your family members. What resonates with you when you look at our moments above?

Observe how you most often express love to others. Is your first instinct to hug someone or express to them how wonderful they look?

What do you complain about most often? That is good insight into what your love language may be as well. Your complaints reveal your inner desires. What do you request of your spouse most often?

According to Chapman, sometimes there are certain life situations that make the other love languages extremely attractive. For example, your primary love language may be Words of Affirmation, but if you are the mother of three preschool children, then Acts of Service by your husband may become extremely attractive to you. If he gives you only Words of Affirmation and does not offer to help you with household responsibilities, you may begin to feel “I’m tired of hearing you say, ‘I love you’ when you never lift a hand to help me.” For those years, it may appear that Acts of Service has become your primary love language. However, if Words of Affirmation cease, you will quickly know that this continues to be your primary love language.

This Valentines Day have each member of your family take the brief online quiz to see what your love languages are. It’s fun and free! Then grab one of the books to learn more and start spreading the love. Only this time you will be equipped to show it in the way someone might need it the most! Happy Valentines Day to you!!

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One of our favorite small towns we visited along our trip was Wallace, Idaho. The town of Wallace is actually listed on the National Register of Historical places and is located in the Bitterroot Mountains surrounded by amazing natural beauty.

Wallace is in northern Idaho, not even an hour east of popular Coeur d’Alene, and just west of the Montana border. Wallace is right off the I-90 and is the perfect town for a fun and easy weekend trip.

Why your family should go to Wallace, Idaho

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Just 12 miles east of Wallace is the Hiawatha Trail. The route is 15 miles long and includes 10 tunnels and seven high steel trestles. The views are simply gorgeous. The ride starts off through a pitch dark and somewhat wet 1.7 mile long tunnel. I would recommend bringing along a light windbreaker for this alone.

The kids loved the thrill of this tunnel, while Mom pedaled her heart out and was very happy to finally see the sunlight streaming through at the end! Helmets and headlamps are necessary for the ride, but can be rented at the Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area where you have to go to purchase your tickets.

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Trail fees are $10 for adults and $6 for children 6-13. Pretty reasonable until you have to add in the shuttle ride back up.  The cost for this is $9 for adults and $6 for kids. You most certainly don’t have to take the shuttle and can turn your bike around and ride back up, but I think the shuttle is your best bet and I’m glad we did it.

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What else is there to do in Wallace?

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Historic downtown Wallace is simply adorable. There are lots of cute antique shops as well as fun restaurants and little museums. The downtown was a stones throw from Wallace RV Park where we stayed. We loved being able to walk into town and enjoyed riding our bikes along the Trail of the Coeur D’Alene’s as well.

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Take a guided Sierra Silver Mine Tour right here in town too! A family package is only $47 for 2 adults and as many children as you have! The Tour also includes a brief guided trolley ride around historic Wallace!

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We loved the three nights we spent at little Wallace RV Park. It is a tiny park within walking distance to town. Also, City Limits Pub and Grill is conveniently located right on the property. Full RV hookups right here on the creek are only $25 a night. Dry cabins are $30 and tent sites $15 nightly. I loved hearing the creek running right behind us!

Thinking of planning an Idaho getaway?  This week I’ll be posting three unique options for some Idaho outdoor family fun. Today’s suggestion is to head to Lava Hot Springs, which is located in the southeastern portion of the state. It is almost a 13 hour drive from either Phoenix, AZ or Seattle, WA, and only 2 1/2 hours away from Salt Lake City, UT.

Lava Hot Springs is unique in the fact that it is extremely affordable to come here for vacation. Stay for a couple nights to enjoy simplicity and small town fun. Your kids will love it!

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Book spot #11 to have this rope swing right in your backyard!

We loved our three night weekday stay at the Lava Hot Springs KOA. This campground is quaint and oh so pretty nestled right on the Portneuf river amongst many mature trees. The owners, Kody and Andi, are super hands on owners and have really turned this campground around in the past two years they have owned it. Look at our gorgeous spots backed up to the river!

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The KOA is just a short walk/bike ride to Lava’s World Famous Natural Hot Pools as well as to everything in this little town.

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We also were able to rent float tubes right here at our KOA at a discounted price! We just picked them up in town and down the river we went over and over. So much fun!

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Our first full day in Lava we spent at the Olympic swimming pool/waterpark. We all had a ball here and the kids loved their first time jumping off the diving boards and various platforms. We bought day combo passes good for both the waterpark and the Hot Pools. What a deal at only $12.50 a person for the entire day! The outdoor waterpark opens back up in mid-May while the indoor portion is open during various times throughout the winter.

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Keep in mind that you will need to bring your own chairs, blankets, umbrellas, towels, etc. There is a reason this place is so affordable! It’s no big deal if you are prepared! You may bring in your own food and nonalcoholic drinks too.

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This Lava Hot Springs KOA offers options for every type of camper.  There are several adorable cabins for rent as well. The kids loved watching the trains go by on the tracks just next to the main road into the campground as well.

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If you happen to be traveling along the I-15 , definitely take the 12 mile detour to Lava Hot Springs for a couple days of family fun at this KOA! We recommend going during the week as we hear that the weekends can get a little crazy.

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When I think of our FAMILY and the word PLAY, I think perhaps that ship has sailed. Our kids are all in middle school, so there isn’t a lot of interest in play time anymore, is there? There’s a lot of playing around perhaps. And the term “playdate” has long been replaced with “hangout.” But, is there a need for regular family playtime?

While listening to Brene’ Brown’s The Gift of Imperfect Parenting audio CD in my car today, the importance of play in families really hit home. It made me realize that our lack of family play is exactly why we pulled out of our normal existence to take a 6 month hiatus around the USA. It was a way to regain playtime in our family. I never looked at it like that. Times of play had been hijacked by long days at school, homework, competitive sports and other extracurricular obligations. Our family had no time for regular play. Play is what our family was missing.

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I think it’s why so many of us love to travel and plan family vacations nowadays. It’s the only time we carve out for downtime to be together. I believe that today’s culture deprives us the regular opportunity for family play and we need to wake up to that fact and intentionally incorporate it back in. Stuart Brown is a leading expert on play who believes that the importance of play is essential through our lifetime. He even wrote a book on the science of play, and its essential role in fueling our happiness and intelligence throughout our lives. We cannot let go of relaxed, silly fun at any age. It is the piece of family life that keeps us joyful and connected.

When you think about your family, what are those activities you enjoy doing where you just lose track of time having fun together?

Here are 6 ways our family PLAYS together.

1. HIKING

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The beauty of hiking Bryce Canyon, Utah

2. BIKING

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Biking the Sites in Washington DC with Bike and Roll

3. GEOCACHING- the kids introduced us to this fun treasure hunt type phenomenon. We always were on the lookout for different Geocaches‘ wherever we went.

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Geocaching near the headquarters in Seattle, Washington!

4. ADVENTURE COURSE CLIMBING 

Our adventurous kids get us out doing things that we wouldn’t normally do.  We did several adventure courses during our travels, but this was one of our favorites.

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Enjoying our day at Whitefish Mountain Aerial Adventure Park in Montana!

5. WHITEWATER RAFTING

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Rafting down the Nantahala River, with Adventurous Fast Rivers, in North Carolina!

6. COLLECTING SEA GLASS

This is a family tradition passed down from my parents. We love to see who can find the biggest piece or the most unique color! We spend hours doing this at the beach.

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Enjoying St. Martin’s Grand Case beach!

The family that plays together stays together!

Make a list of the unique things you enjoy doing together as a family. How will you incorporate PLAYTIME back into your FAMILY if you too find it’s missing?