How I Got a C- for Pioneer Day Two Years in a Row OR Creative Buffalo Chips

I’m getting really good at underwhelming mediocrity! The bright side is at least this year nobody threw up!


No, actually we did have a little “incident.”

My incredibly awesome blog post for last year’s Pioneer Day is here if you want to see how little I had to do to actually improve on my previous performance. You can decide yourself if I actually deserve a flat out C instead of the C- I’m giving myself.

(But all in all, let’s be honest. I’m not really upset about it. This is just one incidence of underwhelming mediocrity I choose to just laugh at instead of beat myself up over. It’s just gonna happen sometimes… things aren’t always outstanding. And that is ok. Just keep trying at the things that matter most to you. And if you get a C- two years in a row, just make sure you can get a really good practical joke out it! You’ll see what I mean at the very end.)

I didn’t take my kids to the parade. Or the carnival. Or the fireworks. (We went to 4th of July fireworks so the kids didn’t actually miss out on those.) I chalking this up as a point for me because I saved a ton of money, a ton of energy, we didn’t miss out on any of the crying, whining, or complaining about the 100 degree weather or the long lines or the “I didn’t get any candy” from the candy throwers at the parade. AND my kids didn’t miss it either. Maybe someday we will make it to all those things (actually we will go to the parade next year again I’m sure) but this year we chose to forfeit all of that. Point for me!

Me: 1. Pioneer Day: 0.

I whipped up some awesome old fashioned lemonade. A little extra sour, maybe, but that just makes it extra healthy right? Extra lemon, low sugar? Anyone up for a good de-tox?And it’s ok if half the family can’t stand to drink it. More for me! (They could have watered it down if they really wanted to.) Another point for me!  (No picture because I drank it all, of course.)

Me: 2. Pioneer Day: 0

And if you are going to drink old fashioned lemonade to celebrate the pioneers, it’s best to pair it with some good old fashioned gingerbread. The more the better, right? Unless of course for some reason you think you can double a recipe without doubling the size of the dish you are going to bake it in. I don’t even have an adequate explanation to excuse this miscalculation. No words.

Maybe we could call these homemade Buffalo Chips? (Anyone want the recipe!! 🙂 )

Me: 2. Pioneer Day: 1

But the gingerbread was delicious! Especially with extra sour lemonade. (Which is why the only picture I could get of it was after we had devoured almost all of what thankfully stayed in the dish!)

Me: 2 1/2. Pioneer Day: 1

I did check out a book to make fun Pioneer Day crafts with the kids. Yes, I know none of these crafts would actually recreate the spirit of westward expansion and the hardships of actually pioneering on the frontier and beyond. But corn husk dolls are fun, right? And weaving colored construction paper? Isn’t that kind of similar to using old clothes and rags to make rugs for our dirt floored cabins? Did we actually do any of these crafts? No. Not a one. Point for Pioneer Day.


Me: 2 1/2. Pioneer Day 2

Because we didn’t go to the parade I asked my friend if we could get together with her family and have fun with them so my kids wouldn’t feel gypped. I brought over the sour lemonade, what was left of the gingerbread, our bag of craft supplies and the above mentioned book (which we never opened), and our swim suits. Pioneer children swam in ponds and creeks right? Does a backyard pool count? It was certainly really fun.

Until my 4 year old threw up in the pool.

Point for Pioneer Day.

Me: 2 1/2. Pioneer Day: 3.

But it was really, really fun. (Not the puking part – I mean the whole day at my friend’s house.) Totally laid back. Nice, warm weather. Fun and friends and water. My friend looked up some pioneer games and we all played “What Color is My Bird.” The person in the middle holds a glass of water and chooses a color, but doesn’t say it out loud. All the people on the outside of the circle take a guess at which color the middle person has chosen. If they get it wrong, the person in the middle gets to flick water at them from the cup. The one who gets it right replaces the person in the middle and chooses a new color for the others to guess. This was really fun! (Notice the child who threw up still recovering with towels in the warm sun. Don’t worry, he’s perfectly fine. Pioneers are tough! They’ve just got to buck up sometimes is all.)


The fun just multiplied exponentially when we opted to use the hose instead of the cup of water!!!

It is amazing the colors kids can come up with: Lavender, Burgundy, Bronze, Mac n Cheese (He said it was a crayola crayon color so we went with it), Denim, and my favorite, Chartreuse. Which I didn’t know was a french liquor. But now I know!

Ok, so our game wasn’t totally authentic – with the hose and all – but I bet the pioneers would have used a hose if they had one. And I’m pretty sure denim was already around back them. Wasn’t Levi Strauss from California during the Gold Rush?

So yes, denim is totally appropriate.

Chartreuse probably not so much.

Who gets the point for that one?

We also made “covered wagons” out of graham crackers, life savers, pretzel sticks, marshmallows, and frosting. This was an activity ALL the kids could enjoy! We ended up with an overflowing covered wagon – that rich lady who just can’t stand to let go of all the worldly pleasures as she heads out west, only to find that most of it will have to be dumped alongside the Oregon Trail as she goes. We had a handcart – for those pioneers who just didn’t have the money or means to secure an actual wagon for themselves. But then somehow they were able to fit it up with 8 wheels and 4 axles – We call that hand carting with style! We had a garage for covered wagons, a covered wagon with a driver an ox, and…. some other creations.

And then the kids ate the candy and crackers instead of actually eating lunch.

It’s a holiday, right? Sometimes you just have to go with it.

Some of us re-enacted the Pony Express! Y”ee-Haw, Mommy!!”


The next day, because I felt a little bad for not re-creating an authentic pioneer experience, even though we had a lot of fun, I made my older kids go to a library program for 8-12 year olds called “Your life on the Oregon Trail!” This was after we spent the entire day “lounging around,” as my husband calls it, in an air conditioned house reading books and playing Legos. If that doesn’t sound like roughing it…

Except I read the flyer wrong and we got to the library right as the activity ended.

Talk about disappointment! The only consolation was that next week is “Your Life as a Viking” and my kids know way more about their Norwegian and viking heritage than they do about their Welsh/British Pioneer heritage. And I PROMISED I would get them there next week on time. Also, we picked up “Little House on the Prairie,” which series my daughter is reading.

Maybe she is getting into the pioneer spirit all on her own? Let’s just say she is.

So we got home from the library and to make it up to them I told them I had some great pioneer activities they could do. In other words, I made them go outside and pick blackberries, crack walnuts, and collect the eggs.

Chores! Now THAT is authentic pioneer work.

I only wish we had a cow.

(Actually, I kind of do.)

(Yes, I know. I say that not really realizing how much work a cow would take. But the idea of having a cow is very, very appealing. No more runs to the store just for milk!)

And we had a pioneer dinner! Also known as leftovers… but they were pioneer leftovers! Hand made wheat and rye bread with a pioneer recipe for chicken salad (that someone gave my friend and my friend gave to me – we call that triple leftovers – and delicious) and some huge fresh tomato slices straight from out of my garden.


I’ve got to say, I’ve been growing tomatoes for about 4 years now and this year I finally was able to get some nice, big, fat and juicy beef steaks! So irresistible, in fact, that my 2 year old stuck his finger in them. But shhhh…. nobody can tell when they are all sliced up  like that!

So all together, maybe this year was better than last year. It’s a little hard to say. There are so many things still left that we could have done. But does every holiday have to be a big deal? I do respect and revere the pioneers. I really do. I even took this online quiz, and although I became very sick, I did manage to survive the trip out west! But it is hard to truly understand what they went through just by pulling a few activities together real quick. I know in a few years my kids will get to experience Trek and get a taste of how physically demanding and extremely different life was back even just 160 years ago – without modern technology and convenience stores (or convenience anything as far as I can tell – unless the cow milked itself, maybe.) But for better or worse, Pioneer Day 2017 is in the books.

And don’t worry. I found a good use for those “buffalo chips!” Now to wait until my husband gets home! Ha!