Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer in the States - Misc St Louis activites

Can you see the groundhog popping its head up from my parents' yard?  So cute!  although the giant holes they bore through the yard are not so cute...
Jaden and Nicholas after their groundhog hunt.  We found 2 for sure ...
My dad and my brother both own 1955 Studebakers and they were in a car show one beautiful Saturday morning, so we took the boys.  I gave them each (including Dakota) an iphone or camera or ipod and a list of cars to take pictures of ... like the oldest car, the shiniest engine, the best paint job, you get the idea.  Not sure how Dakota's pictures turned out, but Jaden and Nicholas' were pretty funny!  They did manage a fairly decent picture of my dad's car...
My dad's 1955 Studebaker
This is all we got of my brother's 1955 Studebaker.  I think it was Nicholas' "favorite wheels" winner.
This car was pretty cool.  For a $1 donation to the local food pantry, you could write your name on the car. 
Nicholas signing his name
Mom and Jaden checking out the camera after our friend Ana's wedding
Mom acting silly for Jaden's camera.  I'm sure she didn't think I would post it to my blog. 
Ana and Bill had a table piled high with legos for the reception.  What a great idea!  The boys spent the entire time there and I got to visit and enjoy adult conversation!
Jaden and Nicholas with Ana and Bill
No trip to St Louis is ever complete without visiting Purina Farms.  We love the dog shows and the tractor ride!  The fact that it's super close to my parent's house and it's free doesn't hurt either!!  :-)  And of course, it was another beautiful day to spend outside!
Checking out the coy pond at Purina Farms
Jaden is technically too tall to ride the tractors, but they were nice since he was with Nicholas and they let him ride.
This may be their last time on the tractor trikes ... Nicholas will probably be too tall next summer.
Waiting for the tractor ride

Trying to get a selfie together is tough with goofy Nicholas!

Finally!  Got a good one!!
We went to a Cardinals baseball game one night with Maria and her girls.  Maria's niece was singing the national anthem with her school choir.  It quickly turned in to a VERY late night for us.  There was a rain delay and the game didn't even start until 8pm (bedtime).  We watched a few innings, walked back to the car, drove Maria home, and didn't make it home until midnight.
Cards game with Maria.
The boys have always enjoyed going to the Magic House, but I'd never taken them to the City Museum in St. Louis!!  What a fun place!!!  Although I think they should have named this children's museum shoots and ladders since all we seemed to do was climb, explore, and slide!  So much fun!!!  Next time though - no crocs / flip flops!  Sneakers would have been a MUCH better choice in footwear!!  Oh and it was another beautiful day outside! 
Arriving at the City Museum.  Lots of climbing structures inside, outside, and on the roof.

Can you see the kids climbing through the tunnel, and the bus hanging off the roof?

Another one of those St Louis birthday cakes

Boys went straight to the roof to sit in the bus overhanging the roof

You can even open and close the door of the bus from up on top!

One of the rooftop slides the boys enjoyed going up and down!

That would be Jaden at the top of the spire on top of the roof

Yep - ferris wheel on top of the roof too!

So close!!!  Jaden missed the 10 story slide by 1"!

So he climbed up the other rooftop slide

Ready, set ...

 After exploring the rooftop, we went back to the outside area at the entrance and climbed everywhere ... it is a truly amazing place to play!! 
Boys had to make their way to the airplane and the rocket ship

Inside the cockpit
Can you see the slide looks like a dragon?  That's Jaden and Nicholas entering the slide through the dragon's mouth
Victorious!  They loved all the slides!!
We were at the museum for several hours before we even made it indoors!!  The indoors was just as amazing as outside with all the places to crawl and climb and explore.  I learned a very important lesson that day.  I'm too old to follow my children when they say "Mom!  Come check this out!  Follow us!!!"  They had me squeeze through areas that were only 6" wide, other areas where I had to army crawl on my belly through a 12" opening, and all kinds of other crazy spaces!!!  I have to say - it was crazy fun!  There was also a room full of skateboarding half pipes, a carnival area with a train to ride in, and so much more!!!  After about 6 hrs, the boys were pooped!!  I think we missed some of the rooms, but we were all exhausted!!  What a fun place!!  We can't wait to go back!!

On yet another amazingly beautiful day, we met Maria and her girls at Castlewood State Park.  We played on the playground, splashed in the creek, played soccer and kickball and went for a nice hike before calling it a day.  No one wanted it to end.  This weather was so unusually beautiful and we were making the most of it!!

Boys with Cassie and Zoey
Too close to the edge for Maria's comfort.  Who knew she was so afraid of heights!!  We loved all the green!
Another beautiful spot along the top of the cliff
I believe that's the Meramac River below, but I could be wrong.  I can't believe I grew up in St Louis, and had never been to this park!
Jaden spotted this cave from the cliff and was determined to climb down to it.  Maria was in a bit of a panic, but after accessing the situation, I deemed it okay.  Jaden was so very proud of himself!!
Random tree trunk along the path
perfect spot for some pictures

A great time together!

Summer in the States - Weekend in Branson

The following weekend, we piled into the car and took the boys to Branson, MO.  We arrived before our cabin was ready, so we killed some time swimming at the pool ... water fights with Tony & Dakota, playing catch, swim races between me and Jaden (I can still beat him in freestyle, but he had me by a mile in breast stroke).  I've never had lessons, what can I say!  Then we headed off to Silver Dollar City for the evening and all the next day.  What is it about Silver Dollar City??  I loved that place as a kid and love it still!!!  Salt water taffy, roller coasters, water rides, train, glass blowing, pottery, candle making, kooky mansion, cave tour, it has it all!

Jaden and Nicholas had to get the marionette puppies and learn to do tricks with them.  I think I had the same souvenir when I was their age.  I'm glad they have re-designed the strings to be de-tangled easier!!! 

In Silver Dollar City Jail

Jaden getting help making a rainbow trout fish candle

Finished rainbow trout.  Nicholas dipped his puppy and kitty in the black wax and was done in 2 seconds.  Jaden took 30 minutes to create his masterpiece fish!  So fitting of their personalities!!
At the end of our day at Silver Dollar City, we decided to go on the cave tour at the last minute.  It was something like 700 stairs down, maybe 1/2mi walk, then some 200 stairs up before jumping on a little mountain train to bring us back to the main gate.  The boys all wanted to go, so Tony and I took them down.  We had the best tour guide - absolutely hilarious - that made the trip very memorable!!  Jaden was a trooper and walked the entire way, but I carried Nicholas through most of it.  It was cold in the cave and he was still wet from some of the water rides at Silver Dollar City, so he was freezing.  To be honest, I was too and so I didn't mind carrying him -- his body heat helped warm me up!!
Tony & Dakota entering the cave
Nicholas and Jaden behind...
Deer in the headlights selfie with a stranger photo bombing us in the background.  :-)

My iPhone doesn't take very good pictures of the cave.  It had some massive openings and was fun to explore.

Jaden thought this part of the cave looked like bacon.  (I think he always has bacon on the brain)
We made it up the steps and on the train

This was the train we took up the mountain.  I was happy to ride instead of climbing up the equivalent of something like 500 more steps!!!  Mom and Dad were waiting for us at the top.
 After our day of Silver Dollar City, we spent a day at one of the family fun parks or whatever you want to call them ... bumper boats, bumper cars, go carts, putt putt golf, ...
Dakota on the bumper boat
Even my mom got in on the bumper boats!  That's her just behind my brother.
So it's hard to take pictures while your 5 year old is driving the boat.  Those are strangers in the center of the shot, but it's my dad to the right of center.  It's the only one of him I got.
Tony being silly on the bumper boats.  Fun times!
Jaden loved being tall enough to drive himself!
My little Nicholas trying to steer us in our boat...
After the bumper boats, we hit the bumper cars.  Tony drove Jaden, I drove Nicholas, and Dakota drove his own.  There was no mercy on the bumper cars.  Nicholas got tired of being rammed and I had to drive around and tell everyone to stop hitting us because Nicholas wasn't liking it so much.  After a few minutes, he was ready to get back in the action, but instead of telling people it was okay to bump us again, we just started ramming Jaden, Dakota, and Tony.  Not exactly fair, but it sure was fun to surprise them like that!  Sneaky sneaky!

Jaden having fun with Uncle Tony driving him on the bumper cars.  Nothing gentle about it!

That's Dakota coming in for the kill!
I drove Nicholas around the rink leisurely until he was ready to get back in the action!
Next stop was the go carts.  Jaden and Nicholas were too little to drive the big carts ... only the kiddie carts.  Dakota was able to drive the juniors, but only me, Tony & my Dad could drive the big ones.

Jaden and Nicholas on the kiddy carts
Jaden seemed unimpressed.  He wanted to drive the big cars!
Nicholas was thrilled to drive, but was always turned to watch his brother...

Getting ready for the bigger cars...Dakota could drive these himself.  Tony drove Jaden (because he is faster) and I drove Nicholas.
Ready, set, go!  I'm not sure they have the height requirement correct on these things - my feet barely reached the pedals!!!
Dakota was off!
Tony and Jaden were WAY ahead!
And Nicholas was very angry with me for coming in the rear!  Sorry kiddo!!  I've never been good at driving!!

 A trip to Branson with my brother and Dakota is never complete without a ride on the ducks. 
The boys with their quakers
After a short drive through town, we drove right out onto the lake.  Loved being on the water!
Jaden took a turn driving the duck.  Nicholas refused to take a turn.
Mom and Dad looking good on the duck

Dad relaxing on the porch of our rented log cabin in Branson.  It was cozy and cute!
The gang before checking out of the little log cabin...
 Before heading back to St. Louis, we stopped at Pirate's Cove for one last round of putt putt...

It was a fun and busy weekend in Branson and when we asked the boys what was their favorite part??  Elephant Rocks and the shut ins!!  Of course!  They most liked the free stuff from the weekend before!  Isn't that just like kids.  Might be our last trip to Branson.  We'll just go hiking and camping from now on (it's what I would prefer anyway).  :-)