Monday, October 14, 2013

Fall Break - St. Louis

Last week the kids had a week off from school for fall break.  We didn't have any big plans at first but then we decided on a few days in St. Louis.  I figured I might be ready to get out of the house by Thursday!

We left Memphis Thursday morning and made it to St. Louis for lunch.  Then we went to the City Museum.  This museum made me wish I could be a kid again.  I don't think I could have imagined a playground better than this.  I can't even come up with the words to describe it but it was a really fun combination of tunnels, slides, hidden passageways, and ladders.  We stayed until closing time and the kids weren't anywhere near bored.  We almost missed a whole section of the museum (with a 10 story slide!) that was in a cave like area that we hadn't explored yet.  When we left, Casey said it was the most awesome place she had been.

View of city from top of City Museum

On Friday, we explored downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch.  We couldn't go up in the Arch because it was shutdown with the government but it's pretty amazing to just look at it from within the beautiful park surroundings.  You could also walk right down to the edge of Mississippi River which turned out to be pretty fun for the kids.  They were pretty happy to throw sticks in the river and play in the random bits of sand.  Even I was excited to actually put my hand in the mighty Mississippi.

At the base of the Arch

Touching the Mississippi River
Getting ready to build a raft a la Tom Sawyer
Had to find a bigger stick than Jack's

Red fountains near stadium

Next we toured Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals.  I wouldn't say this was the kids' favorite part, but it was fun to check out the dugout and all the posh places people with the good tickets can hang out.  We learned quite a bit of team history and St. Louis has a lot of pride in their baseball past.  

We originally wanted to go to St. Louis in the summer and catch a Cardinals game while we were there.  (Pat generally likes to plan our trips around sports events.)  Since it was post season, we didn't think we were going to catch a game this trip.  But...turns out the Cards made it to the NLCS and the first game was in St. Louis on Friday night.  After our stadium tour, we could see fans starting to stream into the city with their red shirts.  And also after our stadium tour, Pat wanted to see this game more than ever.  There were scalpers on every corner but Pat was able to get two pretty good tickets for him and Jack through the Cardinals ticket site on game day.

We headed to the St. Louis Zoo in the afternoon but the kids were tired so it was a quick trip.  They seemed to have plenty of energy for the pool after though.

Baby elephant bum in the middle

I promised Casey that she and I would go on a date and go shopping if Pat & Jack went to the game.  She had fallen in love with a cute little Cardinals shirt and skirt in the team store so I told her we'd find an outfit on our date.  Even when it was possible that Pat could get four tickets, Casey wanted to go on our date instead.  We went to Trader Joe's, World Market and then Target.  Casey loved looking at all the clothes and I loved some of the bargains we found.

Pat and Jack ended up at the longest League Championship Series game ever!  They didn't get back to the hotel until 1am...but they had a blast.  Pat said there was an 11 year old boy beside them and he and Jack became fast friends and helped each other stay up so late.  It was an awesome experience for both Pat and Jack.  Jack wanted to know if we could fly to Los Angeles to watch Game 3.

When we left town on Saturday morning, Casey was crying she was so sad to leave.  Our hotel turned out to be great - the Drury Inn Union Station.  It had free breakfast and dinner, was only a mile from downtown and was right beside the beautiful Union Station.  We could see the old train tracks out our window.  (Also, I was impressed that our room had windows on 2 sides...we had a great corner room.)

On our way out of town, we stopped at Grant's Farm and saw some Clydesdale horses, fed some camels and enjoyed the tram ride around the park.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pete the Cat Visits Casey

Casey came home from school on Friday a couple weeks ago and excitedly told me she was Star of the Week for the next week.  She came with a bag that contained Pete the Cat, his journal, and a Marvelous Me binder...and instructions on how to be the Star of the Week.  Pete the Cat is a character in a series of books that Casey's teacher loves and luckily it was a stuffed animal version of the cat that came home, and not a real cat named Pete.

We had to make a poster all about Casey, take Pete the Cat around all weekend while journaling his activities and get ready for Show'n'Tell on Friday.  I also got to go read her class a book and have lunch with her one day.

On Sunday afternoon before her special week, I got to work on my homework...I cut out clip art for the poster, found pictures of Casey and wrote in Pete's journal.  Casey was pretty specific in how she wanted the poster put together, so she did all the glueing and I did some picture captions for her.

Then we realized that we didn't exactly take Pete out to all our weekend events.  I believe he languished somewhere in her bedroom for most of the weekend.  After reading the previous two entries in his journal, I tried to spice it up a bit and write from Pete's perspective.  (And make excuses for his absence at a few events.)  I'm not sure if I got his personality right or not since I haven't actually read any of the books but he seems like he should be a pretty funny cat.

With the help of a newsletter template in my word processing program I made a fun little journal entry and added some pictures.  Here is the text since I couldn't figure out how to get a PDF on here...

I had a fun and busy adventure with Casey’s family this past weekend!  Casey was so excited to bring me home and told her mom that she had to take me everywhere this weekend.  
First though, she tested to see if I still had some of my nine lives left by tossing me over the balcony to her mom downstairs.  They did that a few times but luckily I’m a pretty tough cat and it was kind of fun.
Apparently I just missed the tooth fairy by a night.  Casey was very excited about the new hole in her mouth.  I’m kind of glad though because I don’t know how a run-in with the tooth fairy would go.   
On Friday night, Casey & her brother took me to a sleepover at their friends’ house.  The girls made a whole bunch of friendship bracelets and they even made one for me!  Then they tried to keep me up way past my bedtime, but if there’s one thing cats are good at, it’s sleeping and taking naps.  I curled up and went to sleep while they talked and talked and talked.
Saturday was a beautiful day in Tennessee and Casey and her family headed to a fall fair.  I stayed home to nap because I heard there would be bouncy houses - cat claws and inflatables don’t mix very well.  I heard it was a lot of fun with bouncing, games and candy.  
On Saturday evening, the Eliasons had neighborhood friends over for dinner.  It was taco night, so I helped myself to the buffet.  Casey and I played and had a great time with Camryn (who used to be in Mrs. Waller’s class 2 years ago).  
After church on Sunday, Casey showed me everything she had done in Sunday school.  I got to sit on the counter and hang out with her and no one even yelled at me to get down or worried about cat hair in their food.   
Casey had to get to work on her Star of the Week poster.  She told her mom just how she wanted things and they worked on it together.  
Then the Philadelphia Eagles came on TV and they taught me a new chant - E - A - G - L - E - S Eagles!  I’m not sure I can get behind this team because I think an eagle could snatch me right off the ground if one ever wanted to.   I’m more of a Bengals least they’re family.
On Sunday night everyone needed to get a good night of sleep and get ready for a new week of school, including me.  They tried to make me take a bath but I let them know that I do NOT take baths!  Other than that, it was a great weekend with Casey and her family!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Spider Night

Casey was supposed to be in the bath and Jack was drying off after his (too) quick shower.  Pat and I were trying to have one of those things called an uninterrupted conversation in the kitchen.  Jack came in to the kitchen jabbering about a spider.  Casey was yelling from the bathroom that she KNEW it was a spider because it had 8 legs and she had just learned all about that in school.

Is it in the bathtub with you Casey?  No, then take your bath.  Jack, go get your clothes on.  I told them spiders eat other bugs and to leave it alone.  I don't normally let spiders live in my house so that they'll eat other bugs, but I thought it would get the kids to move on.

Jack did not get his clothes on but went to investigate the spider.  He came back and told me that it is having babies.  I didn't believe this because I've watched Charlotte's Web and I know that spiders put all their eggs in a sack until they're ready to come out (hatch?).  I wondered what would make him say she was having babies...did he see a sack somewhere?

The adult conversation was going no where.  Casey was still only halfway into the bathtub.  Finally I decided to kill the spider.  I told the kids they were wimps and went off with some paper towels to get the big bad spider.  I believe Pat mocked my non-chalant attitude.

Oooh...yes, that is a very big spider in the bathroom.  Oh, and there are tiny little spiders all over the bathroom floor aka babies.  The kids informed me that mama spider was under Casey's bath towel that didn't quite get hung on the hook like it should.  I pick up the towel and shake several more babies out of the towel onto the floor and squish them.  Casey was very concerned that I might make her use that towel after her bath.  Not a chance...straight to the washing machine with it to drown any baby spiders that might have hung on.

That mama spider was so big I decided that Pat could take care of her.  As he squished her more baby spiders came out.  I really thought they were supposed to be in sacs!

I'm pretty sure we got them all but I'll be checking a few more times before I go to sleep tonight.  Casey summed it up well, "So next time we tell you there's a spider, you just kill it...PLEASE!"

Post Script - Casey came home from school with only one of her earrings.  She was very distraught.  Cried about it every time she thought of her earrings.  We went to put new ones in tonight and I tossed the single one that had lost its mate.  I was determined to not keep random earrings around for "some day when we might find the other earring."  I tossed it right into the garbage can with the paper towels containing all sorts of squished spider parts.

As soon as Casey got into bed tonight, she found the lost earring.  It hadn't been lost at school.  I got to dig through the garbage can of spider parts for its mate.  New policy - we'll be keeping lost earrings for at least one move from after the time it is lost.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Trip to Shiloh Battlefield

One of my contributions to our summer "bucket list" was to make the trip to the Shiloh Battlefield.  A few months ago, I started reading A Blaze of Glory by Jeff Shaara about the Battle of Shiloh and realized that it is only 2 hours from us.  (Still haven't finished the book though.)  And since we might not live in this area of the country again, I decided I wanted to go there before we leave.  For a week or two our weather was unseasonably cool - meaning not 100 degrees! - and we had a free weekend, so I decided we should make a little trip last Saturday.

In the Battle of Shiloh the Confederate Army (the Army of the Mississippi) under General Johnston attacked the Union Army (the Army of the Tennessee) under General Ulysses Grant, with fighting starting near Shiloh Church.  The Confederates almost surprised the Union and made great gains the first day.  However, the Union Army of the Ohio under General Buell arrived and the Union was able to overwhelm the Confederates on the second day.  It is one of the bloodiest battles on American soil with over 26,000 casualties.

Shiloh Church (rebuilt)
This is the first Civil War battlefield that I have been to so I don't have anything to compare it to, but I was impressed.  I knew that I might not be able to read and look around and absorb as much as I wanted to with the kids (and Pat) in tow but it was very easy to figure out the layout of the battlefield and figure out where the different armies were at what times.

I guess Casey was mid-sneeze here
Around the park, states have erected monuments to those who served in various regiments or to commemorate all of the soldiers from the state.  The type of monument that Jack and Casey are posing on above marks the location of headquarters for various brigades or divisions.

There was a Junior Ranger Program for the kids and they had to fill out 8 different activities from their booklets.  Some of them they could do themselves, but by the end Pat and I felt like we were doing homework.  There is a driving tour of the park with different stops and we had to stop at various ones to answer different questions.  I think I was the only one hopping out of the car by the end.

The monument above is the Confederate Monument and was one of the first stops in our driving tour.  It is full of symbolism and was really very interesting.  Thanks to the Junior Ranger Questions for making us stop and learn more about it.  There is a woman in the center who represents Defeated Victory and she is surrendering the laurel wreath to Death and Night (on her right and left.)  There is an infantryman holding a flag as a symbol of defiance to the Union Army and a calvaryman spreading his hands in frustration because they were unable to penetrate the dense woods during battle.  Underneath the women in the center is General Johnston (who died during the 1st day of battle).  The profiles of the soldiers on one side are happy as the Confederates were winning after the 1st day of battle.  Their heads are bowed and defeated looking after the second day when the Union army of General Buell reached the area and along with General Grant pushed the Confederates back and they eventually left for Corinth, MS.

Confederate cannons lined up firing into the "Hornets Nest"

Also on Saturday, there was a special cannon firing demonstration.  There were re-enactors and a park rangers talked through all the steps of firing a cannon and what everyone's job was in between the 3 firings of the cannon.  The kids both seemed to enjoy watching how it all worked and I learned how it all worked too.

After our walking and driving tour of the park, we headed to Pickwick State Park to check it out.  Pat had heard that we could rent a pontoon boat and we make a half hearted attempt to find the rental area, but it was getting kind of late in the day.  Instead, we found a swimming area in Pickwick Lake and a playground that interested the kids so we went in that direction.  Jack didn't want to swim - he said to me a few days ago that "I only swim in pools and oceans, not lakes and rivers."  But Casey had a blast swimming around and I almost wished I had put my bathing suit was nice and warm.  The people watching was very entertaining as well.

A couple hours later and we were back home, filled with new Civil War knowledge and a couple ticks we picked up along the way.  Now that I've seen the battlefield, I'm going to finally finish up the book!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Jack is 7!

Jack is now officially 7!  We had a pretty fun day on his birthday...

First things first, we had to open presents.  They were pretty heavily Star Wars themed again and Jack immediately got to work building some Legos and skating around on his skateboard.  I've been giving the non-birthday sibling a gift the last few birthdays and I found a Queen Amidala costume for Casey that she loved.

We went to a Memphis Redbirds game in the afternoon.  The Redbirds are a AAA affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.  Pat signed the kids up for  Rocky's Kids Club and they got to go on the field before the game and make a high five tunnel for the players to run through.  They also got to go on the field after the game and run the bases.

But the best part was that the big "Happy 7th Birthday Jack!" that showed up on the Redbirds scoreboard.  They showed it after the 2nd and 7th innings.  The first time, Jack wasn't really sure what to make of it, but he loved seeing it the second time.

It also happened to be Nickolodeon day at the park and there were all kinds of shenanigans with slime going on in between innings.  All the kids were invited to go get slimed by the slime-a-nator.  The birthday boy had absolutely no interest in that, but his sister begged to go get slimed.  I thought she might change her mind after seeing other kids get hit with the slime but she was determined to do it.  A big bucket of cold slime crashed down on her head when it was her turn and she loved it!


On the way home from the game, we stopped at Baskin Robbins and let Jack pick out an ice cream cake.  He found one with a golf ball and bag on top and assured me that he liked mint chocolate chip and we came home to light some more candles.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Jack's Bowling Birthday Party

Sometimes Jack gets the short end of the stick with birthday parties.  He gets parties, but they don't get quite the time and effort that Casey's do.  Of course he hasn't noticed a difference so in the end it seems to work out for us.  Casey is still asking what kind of crafts we're going to do at Jack's party though.

One year we thought we wouldn't have a big party until all my friends convinced me to have a little playdate party for him.  This is the one where Tugger ate the cake and I had to make a last minute call to a friend to pick up a cake.  Last year we had just moved into the area and didn't really know anyone.  On Jack's birthday we went to a Hail & Farewell for Pat's office and the Captain's family got him a cake and some sweet people who didn't even know him brought presents for him!  

This year we were trying to work around friends being in and out of town, so we decided to have an early party.  Jack originally wanted to take some friends to a baseball game but the schedules didn't work out.  When I suggested bowling, he thought it was great.  So we invited three of his best friends, I grabbed some Star Wars themed plates, napkins and balloons at the store and we planned a party.  

It also happened that Jack's party was in the middle of Vacation Bible School week for us and after I spent a morning with incoming 1st graders, I was not feeling ready for a bowling party.  But I pushed through, got some brownies and ice cream made, blew up some balloons and Jack was happy.  

As soon as the boys got here, an epic Star Wars battle began and there was a lot of energy in this house.    I was kind of afraid to take that energy to the bowling alley by myself, but once we got to the bowling alley they all settled down and started focusing on getting strikes!  I really had fun watching the boys bowl.  (But I'm going to have to join in next time I go!)

After 2 games of bowling, we headed back to the house to make pizza and eat cake.  Jack was so impatient to open his presents that he didn't even want to blow out the candles on his cake.  Then he didn't even eat a piece of cake until after all his friends left.  He was too busy putting Legos together!

Nana bought some great cake toppers for Jack's Ocean City birthday celebration back in May and Jack wanted to use them again.  General Grievous and Anakin Skywalker battled it out on top of the brownies.

I think Jack was pretty happy with his birthday party.  He really liked bowling so we'll have to go back a few more times this summer.  And I was happy that everyone seemed to have a good time without me trying to recreate anything from Pinterest.  I didn't even have party favors - gasp!  

Only 2 more days until someone officially turns 7!