Saturday, May 31

One Last Note to Self

Our vacation limit with small children is 5 days. We were gone about a day and a half too long.

Lessons learned along the road by John and Allison.

Day 4, 5 and 6

Day 4 was mostly a travel day as I mentioned before. We made it to Branson in time for Brooklyn to take a nap. When she woke up, we headed to Branson Landing. We ate at the White River Fish House which was pretty good. The atmosphere was fun. John and I split catfish (which didn't come close to comparing to Catfish Hole) and some really amazing peach cobbler. The girls' favorite part was the vanilla ice cream that they shared. We hung out at the landing and let the girls play on the playground and watch the fountains. We made it back home in time to get the girls in bed and watch the season finale of Lost.

Day 5 started at 7am with Emma saying, "Let's go swimming!" John proceeded to set her up on the couch with her milk and some cartoons. We went back to sleep until about 8:00. Around 10:00, we headed over to check out the pool. This did not last long because the water was freezing cold. Apparently, they turn off the heat in the indoor pool on Memorial Day. After much whining, we went back and put the girls in the bathtub for a much needed bath.
After some rest time, we went to Celebration City where we rode a few rides before meeting up with John's parents. We all ate dinner together and rode a few more rides.

Day 6 was very low key. GDad fixed us his famous cheesy eggs and biscuits for breakfast. We packed all of our stuff up and then headed to a park. We played on a cool playground and down by the water. Finished with some lunch and got on the road.
We had a wonderful vacation and made many fun memories, but we are so glad to be home. There is nothing like coming home after being gone for a while. Belle was very happy to see us, but probably a little sad that Leah is gone. I think Leah walked her more than we normally do!

Thursday, May 29

St. Louis-Day 3

I was pretty tired last night, so I didn't get to write our adventures from Day 3. It was a beautiful day for being outside. I think the high hit right around 70 and there was plenty of sunshine! We headed to the zoo yesterday morning to finish off what we did not get to do on day 1. We saw the sea lions, monkeys, giraffes, zebras, etc....We finished off the morning with a trip through the Children's Zoo which included brushing and playing with some goats. The girls let out some more energy on the playground. The last section in the children's zoo included a snake to pet and also some guinea pigs. Here is our family picture from the trip. Doesn't Brooklyn looked thrilled? She was a tired girl at this point.

After naps, we headed back out to the Missouri Botanical Gardens. You might think it strange that we decided to go to the Botanical Gardens, especially with kids. It was actually listed on a few sites as a great place to take kids. I knew when we exited off the interstate that I was going to like it. There were a couple of quaint shops and rows and rows of old brick bungalows. The gardens did not disappoint. I'm not sure what it was, but something made it one of my favorite parts of our trip. Wide open space for the kids to run, many things for John to take pictures of, and yummy smells coming from every direction. We roamed for a couple of hours. They had a maze of hedges for the kids along the way. We ended with the Children's Garden and it was amazing. It was full of little tree houses, hidden slides, ropes to climb across, and a water area. We spent a lot of time in this section. We finished with dinner at the little cafe at the gardens. It was the best meal so far and we were able to eat outside looking at the gardens. If you are headed to St. Louis, don't pass up the gardens. We had planned to spend $20 to get in and only spent $8 b/c we got there after 4:00. I love a deal! When we left the gardens, we drove around the Shaw Neighborhood and looked at all the cool, old houses. There were MANY that needed fixing up, but there were even more that I could have moved right into.

We traveled to Branson today and will spend some time here with John's parents until Saturday. We don't have much planned today which is nice. Tomorrow will be full of swimming and Celebration City with Nana and GDad.

Tuesday, May 27

St. Louis-Day 2

My Dad loves to travel, so he always made a point each year to take us on some really cool trips. My most fond memories growing up were vacations with my family. I think that is why I like traveling so much. It brings back good memories for me and allows me to make new memories with my family now. There is something special about being away from the everyday stuff and the "to do" lists and just enjoying the 4 of us. Everyone seems more relaxed. Especially myself. Today, after we laid B down for a nap and set Emma up for some quiet time, I laid on the couch, without guilt, and watched HGTV until I fell asleep. It was great!

The Weather Channel said we had pretty clear skies until noon and they were right on. We ventured out to Grant's Farm this morning. The grounds are wide open, green and beautiful. The first thing you do when you get there is ride on a tram that takes you around the grounds and then drops you off at the animals.

We saw cows close up (B loved that) and many deer and buffalo along the tram ride. At the farm, the girls were able to give a bottle of milk to some baby goats. We had to have all hands on for that adventure, so John took a picture of another little girl feeding so we could remember the memory. :)

While we were there, we (well, really John) got interviewed for a segment on the news. Click here to see the video. The Busch family owns and runs this farm, so at the end of the farm, you can get free beer samples. The Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale's are also on the land, so we went to the stables on our way out. Right at noon, the rain came and we were in the car heading for our hotel.

Brooklyn and I took a long nap while John and Emma watched E.T. (it must have been a good nap for B. check out her hair after she woke up) The rain brought some cold air in and it was still drizzly, so we had to do something inside. The front desk said there was an outlet mall called The Mills that had a large children's playground, so we headed there for the night. I have never seen a mall playground like this. Apparently PBS sponsors the area. It was amazing. We also let Emma jump on this crazy trampoline. As John said, "This is what vacation is about. Letting our kids do things that we normally would not pay for."

Monday, May 26

St. Louis - Day 1

We traveled most of the day yesterday, so this is officially Day 1 of our vacation activities. I am going to try to blog each night, so we have record of our little trip. We have a list of things we want to try to do while we are here and are deciding what to do based on the weather. A bad storm came through last night and it was supposed to continue to rain this morning. Based on that, we decided to do the City Museum. We were not positive that it would be the best place based on our girls ages, but we decided to give it a try since it was inside. I am so glad we did. It was really fascinating. "Genius" is what we called it as we walked out. We decided that we need to come back in about 5 years when the girls are 6 1/2 and 9 1/2. (that is strange to say) The City Museum has things to climb, tunnels to crawl in, slides to slide, balls to jump in, ropes to swing on, and a little aquarium. I don't really know how to describe it, but whoever designed it is a genius. It was really fun. The girls really liked it. Emma was very brave going down some big slides and walking through dark tunnels. There was a toddler area that was a smaller version of the "bigger kid" things. Most of the activities we have planned are free, but the City Museum was not. I was skeptical of paying $12 per person (minus B b/c she is under 2), but it was worth it.

We made it back around 2:00 for B to take a nap. She seemed so tired, but then barely took a nap. The sun came back out, so we decided to head to the zoo for a few hours before they closed. The St. Louis Zoo is the best zoo that John and I have ever been to. (and yes, we have made a point to tour zoo's in most cities we visit, so we are experts :) To be fair, we have not been to San Diego yet) We knew that we would need more than just 2 1/2 hours to get through this zoo, so we went for a few hours tonight and then will go back again. It is a free zoo, so you can come as go as you please. Emma wanted to see the penguins, so we slowly made our way to the back of the zoo where the penguin exhibit was. We visited many animals along the way including elephants, bears, hippos, anteaters, etc.....I got a great picture of this little girl and the hippos that we watched swimming. I tried to get Emma with the hippo, but I could never catch the picture fast enough. I'm glad someone was posing!

Two of the cute highlights of the day were:

We were walking to get some dinner and came upon the Carousel. Brooklyn was walking at this point and was mesmerized by it. She was pointing with one finger and signing "please" with her other hand. I wish we had a video of it, but the picture below is the best we got. It was sweet.

Emma is fascinated with numbers right now. A light bulb went off in her head about 2 months ago that once you get to 20, everything starts repeating. We have been teaching her the 10's such as 30, 40, 50, etc....She is now constantly wanting to count or wants us to count. I told her in the car today that maybe she will be a mathematician when she gets older and she said, "Mom, I am not. When I get older I am going to be a princess!"

Saturday, May 24

Time Out

Brooklyn got in trouble from me for rocking the rocking chair as hard as she could into the wall. I tried to pull her away a few times, but that didn't work. I finally had to spank her. After we "chatted", she proceeded to put herself in Emma's Time out spot in the kitchen. I did not tell her to go there and she has never been put there. Isn't it amazing what they pick up on at 19 months of age? She walked into the kitchen with her bottom lip out, pulled the chair into the corner and sat down. Then stuck out her lip again. Pitiful. What did I do, laugh! I know, I'm a good Mom. I got the camera out b/c I wanted a picture of her pouting in the chair, but instead I got this great video of Emma disciplining her. Isn't it amazing what they mimic at 4 1/2 years old?

Friday, May 23

First Haircut

Brooklyn had her first haircut on Tuesday. I was a little nervous because I didn't want to cut off her precious curls, but it looks good. Bekah did a great job. She snipped the ends and trimmed up the layers. You can barely tell she got it cut. I think her favorite part was getting to eat a sucker!

Dance Recital

Emma has been taking a little ballet class up at our church for the semester. It was a great class. VERY laid back compared to a lot of dance studios and just fun for the girls to learn some basic ballet. I was not ready to put Emma in a ballet class where we would have to spend a fortune for lessons and costumes. They did have a recital at the end, but they wore their normal leotards, tights and skirts. Emma was a star and was so proud to be performing for her family. This video is a little segment of their performance and Brooklyn trying to steal the show. The girl loves to twirl. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 20

Razorback Strawberries

On our way home this afternoon, I glanced over at the fresh produce stand right near our house and the sign I have been waiting for was up. ARKANSAS STRAWBERRIES. I don't know what it is, but they are just the best. About 3 times smaller than the California ones that Walmart sells and they just taste SO good. I turned on my blinker quickly and turned in. Emma asked what we were doing and I told her we were getting some Arkansas strawberries. We washed them when we got home and the 3 of us sampled a few. The girls had a few more on their plates at dinner and John had some with sugar after dinner. I saved mine for after the girls went to bed and treated myself to vanilla ice cream and strawberries. YUM! Anyway, this conversation happened after dinner as John was eating his strawberries:

Emma: Do you like strawberries?
John: Yes, I love them.
Emma: You know we got those today. They are Razorback strawberries.

This girl knows her heritage.

Tuesday, May 13

Mother's Day

Mother's Day was a good day and my family did a great job of making me feel appreciated. I woke up to flowers on the kitchen table, a set table (using the "You are Special" plate I must add) and french toast being fixed. Yum! We all ate breakfast together and I opened my presents. John got me an adapter for my iPod. Now I can listen to my iPod in the car. Emma got me the movie Juno and B got me an iTunes card. We all went to church together (a special treat since normally John has to meet us at church) which was a treat in itself. We had a normal Sunday afternoon, but topped it off with Catfish Hole for dinner. Once again, YUM!

I also was treated to a fun day away on Saturday. Washington Elementary put on a home tour through 7 different houses in the historic district. My sister in law and I spent the day oohing and aahing over each one. (minus a few) We both love old houses and love getting ideas. I would LOVE to build a "new" old house someday and Amy is in the middle of doing it right now. It was a fun day and something that we are going to try to do together each year.

Thank you to my family for a wonderful day. I am so thankful that God entrusted my sweet little girls to John and me. They are such blessings.

Saturday, May 10

2008 Father/Child Hike

Last year about this time, Murray Williams and I took our daughters on a hiking excursion. It was a big hit with our kids and with us. So I sent out invitations (sorry if I forgot people come to mind, I feel bad for forgetting them), and set the date for the Father/Child Hike 2008!

This year, we decided to hike at Devil's Den State Park. Me and Emma met Finley Robinson (with Elle & Silas) and Mike Munter (with Kyle) at the Visitor Center around 10:00 AM. It was originally supposed to be 9:30, but we quickly found ourselves in the thick of the Joe Martin Stage Race. 40 road bikers on mountainous terrain for 10+ miles is not good for being punctual.

We hiked the 1.5 mile Self-Guided Trail (National Recreation Trail). We stopped at the first cave (Devil's Den) and Finley took each kid in about 20 feet one at a time to get their spelunking feet wet. The consensus: it was really dark. After poking our heads in the crevaces and Devil's Ice Box, we made it to Twin Falls. With some rain this week, both falls were actually flowing. The kids loved it, so we stopped and had a snack. It's amazing that all the kids handled a moderate-rated mile-and-a-half trail without one complaint! And no one got injured, either. Always a plus!

After we got done hiking, we drove down to the Dam and ate a light lunch at a picnic table overlooking the waterfalls at the dam. After lunch, we all went and chilled beneath the Dam and threw rocks into the water. It was a great way to finish off a great day of outdoor adventures!

I now have a vision of the Annual (or Bi-Annual!) Father/Child Hike Day event(s) for the coming years! If you're interested in joining us for our next big outing, let me know (comment or email). We'd love to have you, and your kids would love going!

More pictures can be found on Flickr.

Friday, May 9

Thank you to the Government

We got our money from the stimulus package deal last week. We decided to get the girls this little water/sand table with a bit of the money.

The sun came out today, so we decided to give it a whirl. It was fun, but will be more fun for me when it is warm enough to put them in bathing suits. Brooklyn thought it was more fun to dump water on herself (something Emma would never do) than to play with the water in the table. We used both sides for water today, but one side is supposed to be for sand. John and I hate sand, so there will never be real sand. I did get brave and bought Moon Sand. A review I read said they used the table for Moon Sand. We will try that another day. I have to space out the new toys. The water table is also going to be used as a Barbie swimming pool! This is what Emma is most excited about. Did you know Barbie's are only $5? We got 2 new Barbie's that have swimsuits on. Thank you George W. for a few new summer toys. The rest will go to savings.

On another note, Brooklyn is wearing me out today. She throws a fit whenever I tell her no. It is really starting to bug.

Thursday, May 8

True Personality Starting to Show

Brooklyn turned 18 months on April 6th and ever since she has been a crazy girl. For the past 18 months, we thought she was going to be our laid back child that was a little more reserved than my other 2 around here. (meaning John and Emma) I am beginning to think we were very mistaken. The girl can throw a fit, but then turn on the charm 5 seconds later. As John would say, "Isn't that what all girls do." She is a funny little girl, but she might be more of a handful than expected.
It has been fun to see the girls interacting more and more with each other over the past few months. There have been more arguments, but also lots of laughs.

Here are some pictures of the past month and a half. We have been having some camera to computer problems, so I'm behind on blogging. I know not all of you care about all of this stuff, but I have to blog it for the history books.

I thought the girls were playing quietly together in the playroom, but come to find out B was alone in the kitchen taking every Kleenex out of the box. She would then pretend to blow her nose and wad each one up.

Brooklyn and Emma were playing outside and when I went out to check on them I found B under the trampoline. She was sitting on a stool with the cozy coupe gas tank, raising her arms in the air and squeeling. Emma came back outside and she informed me they were in a spooky cave.

Brooklyn's new hiding spot. I really couldn't find her the other day and I finally heard a little peep in the closet. She also uses the closet as her "pooping" spot. She even turns on the CD player before going in to do her business. Very funny.

I'm pretty sure Emma was closer to 2 or 2 1/2 before she started dressing up. Brooklyn put this whole outfit together by herself. She even got the high heels on the right feet. She came out of the playroom so proud. As everyone keeps reminding me, she does have the greatest dress up mentor of all time in her prescence on a daily basis.

Tuesday, May 6

This is the Life

I told Emma that we could have a couple of cookies after I laid Brooklyn down for her nap. I put the Oreo's on her plate and I sat down with mine. These were exact words. I have no idea where she learned this phrase:

"Mom, this is the life."

Sunday, May 4

Old Photo Shoot

A while back, Allison posted about Brooklyn's 18-Month photo shoot. While trying to get some good pictures of Brooklyn, we handed her a dandelion in hopes of getting a sweet "smelling the flower" shot. What happened was not so sweet, but pretty darn funny! She immediately opened her mouth and chomped down on the weed, filling her mouth with those little white seedlings. She didn't like it very much. Click on the picture to see a larger's a good time.

Of course, with Brooklyn getting so much attention during the shoot (I use that term extremely loosely), Emma was feeling a little left out. She kept asking for me to take her picture, so after giving up on Brooklyn, I turned the lens toward Emma. This actually proved to be my favorite time taking pictures of her! She was hamming it up for the camera and threw in a real smile every now and then. Here's a series of her multi-faceted smile...I love it!