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.

Fashionista!

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.

 

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Maine Vacation: Lighthouse Trip to West Quoddy Head

There are so many great places to visit when we go to Maine but sometimes it can be a bit of a drive to get to them.  In the past when I had driven 18 hours to get to Maine, we didn’t make too many long trips on top of that.  This year we didn’t have as much time to take long trips; we flew from Memphis to Maine but then there was 4 hours of driving on top of a day of flying.

One of our adventures this year was to drive to the easternmost point in the United States to visit the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse and have some lunch in the town of Lubec.  (Despite its eastern US location, the lighthouse is called West Quoddy Head because there is a lighthouse further east on Campobello Island (Canada) that gets the name East Quoddy Head.)  

Jack remembered visiting the lighthouse a couple years ago and he remembered posing in front of the granite that says “Easternmost Point in the USA”.  This year, he became a little camera hog, posing multiple times in front of the sign and directing everyone else to get in or out of the pictures.  It was a refreshing change from the faces he’s been making lately when I take pictures.

Casey rarely turns down an opportunity to pose for the camera.

Jack is also a big fan of getting his photo taken in any type of wooden cutout with a place for his head.

After walking around the lighthouse and checking out the displays inside the lighthouse, we walked down to a set of stairs that lead to the beach.  There were lots of rocks to climb on and rocks to walk on and rocks to throw.

Grampie followed Casey pretty closely around on the rocks.  It’s so hard to watch her climb on them because every time she takes a step she appears to lose her balance and looks like she is going to fall.  She didn’t have any big falls which I thinks was a combination of supervision and that fact that she can climb on them despite how it looks.  She gained a lot of confidence in her rock climbing while we were in Maine but that only made her braver and more likely to fall because she was being silly at times.

We had lunch at a restaurant in Lubec, Maine overlooking the water.  The lobster boats were to the left and the bridge to Campobello Island was to the right.  It was a beautiful day.  The kids and Grampie climbed around on the breakwater and played on another beach.

On the way out of town, we stopped at Monica’s Chocolates to find some treats.  Monica grew up in Peru and bases some of her chocolates on recipes she remembered growing up with her family.  She met us at the door and immediately gave the kids balloons and a chocolate lollipop.  She then treated the grown-ups with some samples.  We all walked out with bags of chocolate and I even found a cute Peruvian necklace to buy.  

It was a great Maine adventure…we drove on some dirt roads, saw a lighthouse, climbed on the rocks, ate lunch overlooking the water and got some Maine/Peruvian chocolate 🙂

Elmo’s Rescue

We are now Tennesseans and survived our move.  We got settled in our new house and a few weeks later headed to the airport for our trip to Maine.  We had a great week there and there are more stories to tell.  But this is just about our trip back to Tennessee.

On our way home from Maine, I decided to schedule late flights out of Maine.  We had to drive four hours to the airport so I figured we might as well make a day of it and I would deal with the consequences of leaving Portland at 6pm and not arriving in Memphis until 10:30pm (which felt like 11:30pm).  
We were feeling a little rushed on our way to the airport but got there an hour before the flight.  Of course there was a long line to weigh baggage and they were making announcements on the speakers that a plane that had just landed was the plane to Atlanta and we should get to the boarding area.  In reality, after waiting 10-15 minutes to check baggage and 10 minutes to go through security, they hadn’t even started boarding yet.  But once they did start boarding, Casey of course decided she had to go to the bathroom.  
We had a layover in Atlanta and had to switch concourses to get to our next gate.  While we were going down an escalator I was trying to tell Jack that we might be going on a shuttle to get to the next concourse.  I said the word three or four times and he couldn’t hear me & didn’t understand what I was trying to say and I was getting very frustrated.  When we got on the shuttle and he heard the announcement that it was called the “plane train”, he just looked at me like I was crazy for calling it a shuttle.  “It’s a plane train Mommy!”
We waited about an hour for our next flight.  I enjoyed some people watching.  Casey acted like she was going to go to sleep but spent 15 minutes trying to get just right with her blanket and pillow, 2 minutes pretending to sleep and then sat up and said, “Good morning Mommy!”  To which I meanly said, “We’re not playing that game.  Either sleep or sit up and find something to do.”
We were among the last people to get on the plane, which was fine because I knew we had three seats together and that all our carry-ons would fit under the seat so we wouldn’t be struggling to find overhead space.  While we were in line, I said, “Does everyone have everything?”  I glanced at all our things and it looked like we had all our bags.
While we were buckling our seat belts, Casey whimpered, “Where’s Elmo?”  I started to panic a little and said, “Isn’t he in your bag?”  A quick look around determined that he was not to be found.  Casey started crying hysterically.  My first thought was that it really was the end of Elmo.  I said, “That’s really sad, Casey.”  Jack chimed in with, “I’m kind of sad too because that used to be my Elmo.”  
That’s when I realized that I couldn’t let Elmo go without a fight.  I asked the flight attendant if I could go search for him and she said I could as long as I had my boarding pass.  I gave a brief moment’s thought as to whether I should just leave my two children on the plane by themselves.  I wasn’t really worried about them but more about whether others would think it strange that I left them.  
I ran down the ramp and out to our seat but Elmo wasn’t anywhere to be seen.  There was a man sitting near our seat and I asked if he had seen Elmo.  He said a janitor had just come by and taken him. I couldn’t see the janitor on the concourse at all.  I wanted to run after him, but I didn’t dare to go away from the plane.   I was so dismayed after running all they way out there to rescue Elmo and I couldn’t even do it.
I explained to the ticket agent what had happened.  She said the janitor shouldn’t have taken it but should have brought it to her, but that was all she could do for me.  
I walked back onto the plane empty-handed.  Casey broke down crying again and it made me start to cry.  She calmed down a little and asked if she could get a new Elmo and I told her she could have any one she wanted.  
Then I saw the ticket agent walking onto the plane and I saw a little flash of red in her hands.  I quickly wiped the tears off my face.  When she got to us, I was so thankful.  She said the man sitting out there had tracked down the janitor and gotten Elmo for us!
I wish I could have run out there to thank him personally but I will never forget the kindness of that man in saving Elmo for us.  

Maryland Crabs

While we were in Ocean City last week, we went to Hooper’s so the guys could get crabs one night.  Jack was also very excited about getting crabs.  He kept saying, “I love crabs!  I can’t wait to have crabs tonight!”  This is the same child who doesn’t like chicken or hot dogs or bananas or jelly on his pb&j.  But he was thrilled about going to get crabs.

As soon as the waitress brought the mallet and the tray of crabs, Jack was ready to start pounding away.  Unfortunately the art of actually getting the crab out of the legs requires a little more finesse than Jack possesses.  Much to my surprise, he did eat a couple of bits of crab and said that he liked it.  I think it was just taking a little too much time for it to get in front of him.

But when Daddy and Pop Pop were done with their crabs, Jack and Casey did a fine job pounding the bodies to bits with the mallets.  And that made for one of the most fun meals they have probably ever had!

Jack is 5!

It’s been a whirlwind of 5 days since Jack turned 5!  (And a little bit of a whirlwind before that too.)  When Jack woke up this morning, he said pretty emphatically, “Mommy, I’m 5 now!”  The parties are over and the presents are all unwrapped and I think he finally realizes that he is 5.  Or “a whole hand” as he told his Nana.

We celebrated his actual birthday in Ocean City with his Nana and Pop Pop.  He had some very specific requests for his big day.  He wanted us to get up before him and be in the living room ready to surprise him.  Since he’s been getting up at 6am lately, it was a pretty early morning, but we were happy to oblige the birthday boy.  I guess it was a lot like Christmas because we woke up early, opened presents and spent the rest of the morning putting Legos together.

Lightsaber pen

More pieces for his nano/hex bug toy.  Casey got her own bug too.

Darth Jack

 Jack didn’t want to leave the house much because he had new toys but he also requested mini golf so we headed to the one he had picked out.  It was the prettiest mini golf course I’ve seen.  The hibiscus were gorgeous.  Jack and Casey played 18 and then we had some ice cream and listened to some stories about miraculous frog rescues from the course caretaker.  (Some got stuck in the pipes and they survived.)

Jack dined surrounded by his new Legos at lunchtime.

Nana made Jack a very special Star Wars cake with Darth Vader and Luke figures with lightsabers.  He also had his dinner of choice – pasta with pesto.  Because every really picky 5 year old loves pesto.

The cake was delicious, then we spent a little bit of time at the beach and then Jack fell asleep with his new Legos in hand.

Twas the Weekend Before Christmas

Last week I posted on Facebook that the kids were starting to ask if they could open just one present, “Pleeeease, just one present Mommy!”  I think we were all in luck because we headed to Ocean City to celebrate Christmas with Pat’s family and we all got to open some presents.

We had a great weekend in Ocean City with Pat’s parents and brothers/sisters-in-law and the quickly expanding brood of grandchildren – 5 kids and Jack is the oldest.  Naptimes and any semblance of a good diet quickly went out the window.

On Friday evening, the oldest kids got to open their presents from Pop Pop.  Jack got the latest and greatest Hess truck and claimed, “It’s just what I wanted because it’s a truck aircraft carrier!”  It was a Hess tractor trailer truck with a jet that could fly off the back.  He also melted some hearts when he said, “My Pop Pop is the best Pop Pop!”

The kids got to go swimming on Saturday morning and then there were a few impatient moments before it was time to open some presents.  I think all the kids loved their new presents and were happily playing with them most of the afternoon.  We then headed out for a tour of lights at a local park.  We got to ride along in a tram car and see all the lights.  Casey was especially excited when she saw some pink Christmas lights – “It’s my favorite color!!!”  She really said it so that it required 3 exclamation points.  She was also excited to see lights in Jack’s favorite color.  

We also went to see Santa.  Jack had been talking about going to see Santa and sitting on his lap since Thanksgiving.  This was the year he was going to tell Santa what he wanted and not be afraid to sit on his lap. We were going to get a great picture of all the grandkids on Santa’s lap.  Casey looked like she was amazed by him as we moved forward in line.  She just stared at him like she couldn’t wait for her turn.

All talk.  No action.  Jack backed out at the last minute and I think that made Casey back out.  So there is a lovely picture of the 3 youngest grandkids, but no Jack and Casey.  In the end, Casey ran up and told him that she wanted a baby dolly but no sitting on the lap and no picture.  It’s a good thing Bob the Elf is here to let Santa know what Jack and Casey want for Christmas.  Maybe next year Santa.

On Sunday I hosted brunch and then the guys watched the Eagles game.  Pat’s Mom and I loaded the kids into the car and headed up to Philly before game was over but we apparently missed some ridiculously joyous reactions when the Eagles won at the last second.  We were happy because our guys were happy.  And I’d like to leave it like that…a happy ending to a great weekend.  But in the minivan, things were about to get ugly.  Jack got sick – all over himself and his carseat.  And he continued to get sick all the way to Philly.  We had no buckets handy, but Pat’s mom was resourceful and we had some blankets.

Jack is a trooper though.  Between “getting the yuckies out” into a blanket, he chatted with us like there was nothing wrong.  He also said, “Casey likes to put her head in this blanket” right after he threw up into her blanket.  We assured him (and her) that the washing machine would work its wonders before anyone else touched that blanket.  He was also very interested in a car fire that held us in traffic for a bit.  After we finally got to Philly, he went straight into the house and sat on the couch.  When we asked what he was doing, he said he was waiting for the news to come on so he could find out what happened to that car.

Jack was fine after that car trip, but then Casey was sick the next day.  She seemed to have recovered and then got sick in her carseat on the way back to Virginia.  The silver lining is that they both have clean carseats now.  And I’m still amazed at how they were both such good kids for being sick the way they were.  A yucky ending to our great weekend, but it doesn’t diminish any of the great memories we made at our Ocean City Christmas.    

Casey loved holding the babies!

Jack too!

Adorable babies!

Watching Nana opening a present.

Jack unwrapping his new Hot Wheels track

Casey loves her new baby.

Jack & Daddy at dinner

Bad picture, but we’re both smiling

The Castle on Red Beach

On Saturday morning, Grammie took Jack and Casey down to the beach in front of the cottage.  The tide was way out and we walked out to meet it.  On a sand bar, Grammie started building a castle and Jack and Casey eagerly helped, turning it into a castle fit for King Neptune.  They searched for shells and glass to give it windows, then dug a moat and built a bridge and erected a flagpole. It was quite a creation, but doomed from the start as the tide turned while we were out there. 
Jack and Casey stood on their own island for a bit as the tide swirled around them.  They moved to the “island” where the castle was and hung out there as the tide came in around that as well.  We watched the castle get swallowed in the water and then headed back up the beach where Grammie then turned all manner of beach items into delicious food.  Casey only had to be told it was pretend food a few times. 
Jack, Grammie & Casey getting ready to build a castle

I didn’t realize Casey got in this picture but I love the way it turned out.

The Castle
Grammie, Jack & Casey on their island.
Holding their ground on their island, but the tide wins.

Here comes the tide.

The castle returns to the sea.