Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Our First Official Field Trip!

Last week was Monarch Week at the Botanica Gardens in Wichita. So we met up with some other homeschool moms and kids for a field trip. We got rained on some of the time, but that's okay. We didn't melt!

We saw lots of beautiful gardens. As you can imagine, the water features were most popular with the Preschool/Kindergarten crowd.
We went into the Butterfly House and you could almost see the volunteers cringe as we came piling in. And at that point there were only 2 moms and 7 kids(8 if you count the one in utero)! After they could see that our kids weren't going to run all over and climb on everything, stomping on butterflies and destroying things, they got interested in the kids. (Luckily we went there almost the first thing, so they hadn't turned into hooligans yet. :) ) This lady told the kids all about butterflies and we looked at an exhibit showing them in various stages from cocoon to a new butterfly clinging to a cocoon waiting for its wings to dry. Then she let the kids hold a butterfly, which they were thrilled about.
Dominic is proud to be holding a butterfly:

Catherine gets a turn. She said it tickled when the butterfly walked on her fingers. Anne and Joseph were a little too scared to hold one, though.

Just as exciting was the Monarch Butterfly tagging demonstration. The volunteers had caught some monarch butterflies and then each family there in turn got to watch "their" butterfly be tagged and then released. So we have a butterfly flying around out there somewhere. In the spring we'll be able to get online and see if our butterfly has been tracked anywhere down south in Mexico, where they migrate.

A successful first field trip!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More Fun At The Fair

We had never taken the kids to the fair before, in fact I don't think either of us had been to the State Fair previously. It was interesting to walk around and see everything. We watched some equestrian acrobatics for a while, which were really neat. I was amazed at how much there was at the fair. We walked A LOT and saw many different booths, exhibits, and smelled many, many different kinds of food. We tried alligator on a stick (tasty) and deep fried Twinkies (wow, super scrumptious!). There were a lot of buildings that we never even made it into.

The kids, especially the boys, were most excited to see all the tractors and farm equipment. They were able to get up into some of them. Joseph was very happy to be up in this tractor:
We could hear, long before we could see, the chain-saw artist. He was working on a big bear as we strolled up. But, what was much more fascinating were those big logs off to the side.

Joseph finds something amusing:

An old-time tractor:
And you can't escape the fair without a few rides! This was The Circus Train. Joseph was too little to ride by himself so yours truly got to ride with him. Let's just say those little openings to get in and out are not made for adults, especially pregnant ones!

Catherine got to ride in the front:

Then they got to ride the dragon/elephant ride. This one went up and down, but they didn't get scared. It was cute to see Catherine put her arm around Joseph so he wouldn't be afraid.

And finally, the jeep. They each got their own steering wheel, complete with horn. I think there was a horn honking continuously from that car! They really had a blast on this ride. Most of the other cars only had one child riding and they did not appear to have near as much fun as our four.

We lasted almost 5 hours at the State Fair, which is pretty good for our little ones. There were definitely some sleepy heads on the way home.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Meet Me At The Fair

A little over a week ago, we got to go to the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson:

The kids really enjoyed seeing all of the animals. We watched the 4-H kids showing their horses, we saw rabbits and chickens, and a few cows. And we watched the pig competition. Joseph was very interested. I was amused by the commentator's monologue: "And here we have so-n-so's pig. Look at that long, lean body. We could use some more of that in this competition. And here is a fine looking pig. Oh, but I'm not happy with the way he drags his back left foot." And so on. Of course, they all looked the same to us.

We went to the exotic petting zoo, where there were all kinds of animals, from a kangaroo, a zebra, a giraffe, to this pot-bellied pig:

This was a curious 4-horned sheep:

The kids thought it was great fun to feed the animals:
Then, oh joy of joys, they got to ride the ponies! I wasn't sure if Joseph would ride, but as long as he could keep one hand on the pony, Baxter, and the other one clutched to my shirt, he was okay.

Catherine talked about riding her pony, Magic, for days.

Here is Anne on Short:

Dominic had a great time as well. Nobody could remember his pony's name, so we decided to call him George.

More fun at the fair later!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Big 4-0!

We celebrated Dan's birthday this week and it was a fun-filled day. Dan had the day off and we started by sleeping in (til 7:30!). Then it was donuts for breakfast(which I got at the grocery store the night before-Krispy Kremes even)!

After a lazy, fun morning, ... well, we did do some school, I guess that's fun, but not lazy! Anyway, after lunch, we had cupcakes(which I got at the store the night before) and boy, did the kids love those, as you can see:

Everyone got a candle in their cupcake and we all sang Happy Birthday to Daddy. You would think I would have gotten a picture of that, but I didn't. So you'll have to do with looking at some messy kids:

Also that morning I made some Creme Brulee, with the stirring help of the boys. It was intended to be for dessert after dinner, as that is Dan's favorite dessert. However, we went out for dinner and everyone was too full when we got back home. So we had them after dinner the next night. In this shot, right before dinner, I had just sprinkled sugar on the top and torched them with that handy-dandy little butane torch you can see there.
I told Dan I was going to post this picture on the blog before I even took the picture and obviously he didn't care. It is pretty sad that this is the only picture I took of him on his birthday. And the sadder part is that it was actually the next day. Oops.

Catherine is ready to dig in. Joseph, however, did not waste any time for some silly picture.

And the other side of the table, with Dominic showing off his creme brulee while Anne looks on.

Happy Birthday, Daddy Dan!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What I'm Thankful For Today

I'm thankful that the vomiting child woke us up at 6:45 this morning instead of at 2:45. We were only dozing through the snooze button anyway.

I'm also thankful that she seems to be better this afternoon.

And I'm thankful that the morning sickness has eased, so I can better deal with vomiting children.

Most of all, I'm thankful that no one else is currently vomiting or even sick. Hopefully that continues to be the case!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Circus Fun!

...conclusion of our Branson vacation.

What better way to spend Sunday afternoon than by taking your kids to the circus? If you've been to Branson, you know there are a multitude of different shows you can go to. However, the majority of them would not work well with little children. But, the circus was the perfect show for us!

We decided to go to the Yakov Smirnoff Moscow Circus. Here are Dan and the kids with the giant Yakov head. It had moving eyes and jaw and Joseph wasn't quite sure about that.

Inside we picked up our tickets and a little while before the show was to start, some of the circus performers came out to do fun things with all the children. In this picture, Anne is getting her face painted by one of the pretty ladies.

In fact, all four of them got their faces painted. We also saw the tall man on stilts, and the dog trainer with some of her poodles.

We found our seats and eagerly waited for the show to start.

This was not a big three-ring circus with hundreds of performers and lions, tigers, and elephants. It was much smaller and took place on a stage. It told the story of Marina the Ballerina and Andre the Clown, how they met and fell in love, and how Marina's evil sister, the Ringmaster, plotted to break them apart, and then how they found each other again. Through all of the storytelling, there was juggling, ballet dancing, superb unicycling, a magnificent bubbles routine, poodles dressed up as lions and doing tricks, a woman playing with fire, Russian dancing (you know, when they squat down and kick their legs out, and it makes your knees hurt just to watch), the ballerina gracefully doing tricks way up high on a ring, and many other acts. Then at the end, the ballerina and the clown (now dressed in ballet clothes) did a beautiful routine dancing and floating on ribbons hanging from the ceiling. The kids loved it all(so did we!). Joseph didn't even fall asleep like I thought he would.

We couldn't take pictures during the show, but we ended up getting a DVD of the performance and a storybook telling the story of the clown and the ballerina. The kids love to watch the circus over and over again.

A nice lady took a picture of our family in front of the stage after the show.
After the circus, we stopped to eat dinner at Culver's Frozen Custard and Butterburgers. Yum! After a short while, Dan said don't look now (and I restrained myself), but the two main characters from the circus are sitting two tables behind you. The kids didn't recognize them out of costume, which was good, but I am sure if they looked at us, they knew we had been to their circus, seeing that our children still had bright red spots on their faces. I wanted to say to them, "You might perform in a circus, but we live in one!" Don't worry though, we let them eat in peace. :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Vacations Are Great!

...continuing on...

After we toured the cave, we drove back through Branson. It was Saturday of Labor Day Weekend and the roads were packed. If you have ever been to Branson, you will know that the main street through town can be quite a slow drive. We were on the lookout for a kid-friendly, yet not fast food kind of place to eat. And believe me, once you pass something, there is no turning around and coming back. I think it took us an hour to get back through town. Anyway we found a great place to eat called Sadie's Sideboard and Smokehouse. We all did the buffet (the three younger ones were free), which was great, as we didn't have to wait for our food. If you ever go there, it is a good place to eat with kids.

Then we were off to the Dinosaur Museum! This was a place filled with all kinds of dinosaurs, and most of them had flesh and skin on their bones. The kids thought it was really neat, especially since it seems we've been reading a lot of books about dinosaurs.

Here the kids are, looking at some of the little dinosaurs:

I couldn't get the big dinosaurs all in one picture.

Joseph gets to look at T. Rex's big, sharp teeth up close. He liked it. The Dinosaur Museum had a kid's area with games, puzzles, and a video playing about, well, dinosaurs. Then there was a large elevated sandbox with "bones" buried in it, and the kids could use brushes to find them. They still talk about that.

You'd think that would be enough for one day, but it wasn't even 3:00 by this time, so we drove through the rest of town over to the Old Branson side. Down by Lake Taneycomo, there is a very large outdoor mall. We walked around for a while. Did we do any shopping?

Only for cotton candy!

We watched the cool fountains down by the lake for a while. The kids enjoyed watching the boats go by.

There was a neat little playground there. The kids blew off whatever steam they had left there.

You can never be too tired to play.
After the kids had their fill, we loaded back up in the mini-van and headed back to the hotel for dinner in our suite (and a nap or two on the way!).

Here is a look at the set-up in the mini-van:

Yes, I've already figured out that we can squeeze one more kid in there, so when the baby comes, Dominic will be moving to the back row.

To be continued...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Last Minute Vacation!

Every time I am pregnant, we start thinking about what things we should do before the baby comes because after the baby comes, the chaos increases greatly for quite a while. One day not long ago Dan emailed me from work and his message said, hey, do you want to go on a vacation to Branson? I was surprised to say the least. So we checked into it and the Tuesday before Labor Day Weekend we made the decision to go, since I had just started feeling a bit better with the morning sickness and fatigue. We hadn't been anywhere other than to visit family since Catherine was a baby!

We left the Friday of Labor Day Weekend and the drive there wasn't bad except for the torrential rain during a big chunk of it. The kids really did pretty well, for which we were very grateful. The hotel we chose had an indoor pool and the kids were delighted to go swimming.
You can imagine how it is difficult for us to go swimming with so many little ones. Catherine quickly learned how to swim while wearing her life jacket. Anne and Dominic were a lot more hesitant, but Anne finally gained enough confidence after a couple times in the pool that she was soon able to paddle around. Dominic was more scared of the water, but that Joseph was the fearless one. We had to watch him like a hawk, meaning one parent had their eyes on him at all times. He kept wanting out of his floater and then he would jump into the pool, and he didn't want anyone to catch him. He had no problem going under water and holding his breath. I was amazed. And yes, I managed to squeeze into my swimsuit (a mommy kind with a skirt on it) and got wet in the pool. Another couple weeks and it wouldn't have fit. Notice though that there are no pictures of me!

Our hotel room was actually a suite with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, living room and a little dining area. It was worth every penny. We ate some of our meals right there, which was nice. The first night, after the kids finally settled down, they ALL slept all night! Oh yeah! Here are the girls in their room:

The boys got the hide-a-bed in the living room. We wanted them a little closer to us because they are usually the night-wakers.

We visited a cave our first morning there. We didn't realize until we got there that there would be a lot of stairs. Wet, slippery stairs.

Dan got quite a workout. He carried Joseph most of the way down (and back up) those 216 stairs.

The kids thought it was pretty neat, except for the part when you are at the bottom and they turn all the lights off.

After the cave tour:
Joseph is the only one who looks happy in that picture.

Oh, maybe they are hungry. Time for a snack!

To be continued...