Thursday, August 28, 2008

St. Louis Zoo

We spent a lot of time at the zoo, because we had time to kill when we went to St. Louis for gymnastics (1 1/2 hours each way). It is free, and it is a pretty nice zoo.

Some of the days it was overcast and cooler. Those were nice days and the animals were moving around.

It was fun to see the hippos under water.

Once in a while we made the mistake of going out in high humidity and hundred degree weather. Notice the dripping sweat on their faces - even in the shade. (you can click on the picture to make it bigger)
So, it felt really nice to have the dinosaurs spit water on you!
It also felt good to run through the water in the children's area.
It made them nice and cool.
We took our cousins to the zoo, and they liked it too.
It was fun to pet the goats and guinea pigs in the children's zoo.
The playground was fun and full of neat things.
All in all we would recommend this zoo to everyone!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sojourn in a Far Away Land - St. Louis Arch

We met Alan's brother Paul and his family for a weekend in St. Louis. They drove in from Kentucky and met us at the famous Gateway Arch.

The cousins were excited to meet each other. We had never met Rachel before, and it had been a few years since we had seem Claire.
We rode in these little pods up to the top of the arch. There are five seats in each one, but Alan and I were pretty crowded with only three of our children in one with us (the other one rode with Uncle Paul and Aunt JJ)
There were these little windows across the top that you could look out of.
The view was nice, but I got motion sickness being up there. I swear I could feel it moving.
Afterwards we went to the museum underneath the arch. It commemorates Lewis and Clark, since they started their journey west from St. Louis.
We ended the night by going to a flooded parking lot and touching the Mississippi River one last time. The kids wanted their dolls to have that experience too.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sojourn in a Far Away Land - Mark Twain Cave

We went back up to Hannibal to go inside the Mark Twain cave. The story of Tom Sawyer is supposed to be based on Mark Twain's boyhood adventures, and this is the cave that he played in as a kid and used in his book. There are actually two different caves, but my kids couldn't get out the door soon enough for us to make the tour for both caves, so we just went in the one that is most famous.
We had to wait for Alan to meet us there after work, so we used the time to pan for fossils and gem stones.
They had a screen that they dumped the dirt in and then sluiced it in the water to see what was left in their screens.
When Alan got there, we took him up to the candle shop. I showed him a carved candle that I wanted and the kids dipped dinosaur candles.
They had a good time doing that. I just hope they can make it home without melting in the hot car.

We took some more pictures as Becky and Tom.
Then we went over and took a tour of the cave.
It was cool inside, so we wore jackets for the first and only time on our trip.
The rock is called Louisiana limestone, and it is only found in a 15 mile stretch between Hannibal and Louisiana, Missouri - apparently no where else in the world.
They had us stop at different areas to tell us stories about the cave. One was that some doctor chose the cave to try and preserve the body of his dead daughter in some kind of temperature controlled container. Apparently kids playing in the cave found the body and used it to scare each other. Once the parents found out, the town made the doctor remove the body and bury it.
This formation is called frozen waterfall.

The cave kind of reminded me of our hike through the narrows a few years ago in Zion national park, only this time it was underground.

After the cave we went to hike up to the lighthouse.
It was a fun day. There is a lot of neat stuff to do around here. I just wish it was cooler. The cave temperature felt really nice!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sojourn in a Far Away Land - Chicago

We decided to drive up to Chicago for the weekend. We stopped in Springfield, Illinois on the way to see the performance of The Civil War musical that we had seen practicing the week before. It was outdoors, so we paid the blanket price and sat on the lawn. It was a warm night, and the programs were printed on the fans in our hands. It was a neat idea to help people stay cool. It was very good. The kids liked it a lot. In fact, Benjamin goes around singing the chorus to one of the songs all the time. The producer noticed us as he was walking around during intermission and was so excited that we had come back to see the production. I was impressed he remembered us. We asked him if there was a soundtrack available, and found out that the musical had been on Broadway, so we will be looking for the soundtrack.

This is an excerpt from the song, "For The Glory." They really did do a good job! (pardon the camera woman, though, because Benjamin kept jumping into my lap)

The next morning we were up bright and early to go to the American Girl Place. The girls (including mom) were very excited. Dad just accepted it and endured. I think he did enjoy how excited everyone was, though.
We started off with breakfast in the cafe. My kids did not have dolls yet, so the cafe had "loaner" dolls to eat with. The food was very good, and the dolls had their own dishes and goodies too.
Benjamin had a lot of fun feeding his doll blueberries.
Afterwards we let the kids go pick out a doll. Yes, much to the chagrin of my mother we did let Benjamin get a doll too. But it is a BOY toddler doll, and there was no way we were getting out of there without him getting a doll too.
Emily picked a doll named "Emily" which is Molly's friend (World War 2)
Elisabeth picked a doll named "Elisabeth" who is Felicity's friend (Colonial times). Going to Williamsburg and dressing up last year really made a big impression on Elisabeth, and she is excited about the colonial theme.
Leilani picked Julie, who represents the 1970's. Not the time period I would have chosen, but she loves her doll!
We ended our day at American Girl Place by attending the musical performance that they have that showcases all the different American Girl characters. No one under six is admitted, so Alan took the two younger kids to play at the Lego store while we were at the musical.
When we were done at American Girl place we took a double decker bus tour of the city. The kids wanted to take their dolls, but Dad insisted that they leave them in the car.
Chicago is a very pretty city. I was surprised by how clean it was. There is a lot
of fantastic architecture too.
These apartments look like corn cobs, and the cars parked on the bottom half look like they are going to fall right out.
They had many beautiful parks and fountains.
We went to the top of the John Hancock building. We were going to go to the Sears Tower, but there was only a few floors difference, and we were told that the Hancock building had a shorter wait because it was less touristy.
The view was fantastic. I had never seen a Great Lake before. Lake Michigan is beautiful.
I was surprised at how many buildings had swimming pools on the roof.

They had some fun photo props up there and lots of windows.
We went to the Field Museum. It was pretty neat. We didn't have enough time to see everything, but we saw the dinosaurs...
and the mummies...
and the prehistoric indian stuff.
Then we walked down by Lake Michigan, and a nice lady offered to take a family picture of us.
We parked by Soldier Field, so we had to take a picture so I could show Benjamin someday that he had been there.

For any of you who are sports ignorant like me, it is where the Chicago Bears play football.
I was kind of impressed, though. I have seen a lot of sports arenas on this trip and they all seemed to be named after some corporate sponsor. This field is dedicated to "the defenders of our liberty." It was a fun trip. We would like to go back and visit again someday.