Monthly Archives: July 2017

24 hours and counting…

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We woke up on Friday morning buzzing with excitement.

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It was 24 hours and counting until Travis’s wedding, an event we have been eagerly anticipating for what feels like forever. We couldn’t wait! What a lovely blessing it is to feel nothing but pure, joyful anticipation about the addition of a new sister. I fell in love with Krista the first time I met her, when she flew out to join us on Ozzie’s adoption day, and it was my prayer ever since that Trav would nab her and make it official. I am so thrilled for them both.

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But before the big event there was some work to be done. The wedding was being held at a beautiful country church in the heart of Texas hill country. It was a church that was near and dear to Krista’s family, as it was the same church her parents were married in 33 years ago.

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The reception was to be held in the cultural hall behind the church. There was work that needed to be done to transform it into the artistic vision Krista imagined and my mom, my sister, the girls, and I were invited to come help decorate. We were thrilled to be included!

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We arrived and Krista took us on a tour of the church. It was so perfect.

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We then were introduced to Krista’s family; her mom, sister, aunt and cousin. And at once we could see why Krista is such a lovely soul.

 

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Cute sisters!

 

Her family was delightful and the melding of our two families was seamless. Within an hour it felt as though we had always been connected. What a beautiful blessing that is for the bride and groom.

 

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The mothers of the bride and groom.

 

Krista is wonderfully artistic and had a charming vision for her reception area.

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She had collected mementos from her home that had sentimental value and were reflective of her style and gave us the fun assignment of creating charming, mismatched vignettes for the centerpieces.

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We were each allowed to decorate one of the dining tables in our own unique style.

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I thought it was incredibly generous and gracious of her to allow everyone the opportunity to decorate a table, even the three girls.

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It was so reflective of her thoughtful nature.

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We all had so much fun decorating and then checking out each other’s creative interpretations of the task we were given.

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Mom, Vicky (Krista’s mom) and Molly also worked on arranging bouquets of flowers for the tables.

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The entire decorative scheme was so charming with the hankies, beeswax candles, dried lavender, art books, and mismatched  antiques. I LOVED it!

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The finished look! (Taken the next day)

 

When we were done decorating, Krista’s aunt and  cousin brought in lunch so we could have a family luncheon to celebrate Krista’s big day more intimately as new family.

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It was delightful…a fun lead-in to a special day.

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24 hours and counting!!

Our Home away from Home

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We arrived from all corners of the country, converging on Fredericksburg, Texas for the weekend.

From our side of the family alone, we had family driving in from Michigan, Pennsylvania and Utah,

And family flying in from Florida, Ohio, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Alaska.

It was an impressive mass migration to Texas, to celebrate the marriage of Travis and Krista.

We were all staying at Days Inn and Suites in Fredericksburg, Texas.

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Everyone was scheduled to arrive in the next 24 hours, but Kelly’s family from Michigan and our crew from Pennsylvania were the first to arrive at the hotel on Thursday afternoon at 5:00, followed by my parents and Travis (the groom) an hour or two later.

My parents had reserved a block of rooms for family coming in from out of town, which turned the Days Inn motel into our own personal, family reunion headquarters.

The kids loved being able to run from room to room, visiting family.

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The rooms were large and accommodated 6 guests, with two queen size beds and a fold out couch. The kids loved mixing it up and having sleepovers with cousins and grandparents. Lydia stayed in the girls’ room for a couple nights and Nate and Sammy enjoyed a sleepover in my parent’s hotel room.

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Tyler entertaining his two youngest cousins:

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Once we had unloaded our cars and settled in for the weekend we all headed down to the pool to cool off and catch up with cousins.

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The arrival of Mimi and Pop Pop:

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The pool would prove to be the greatest perk of the hotel. The water felt wonderful in the 100 degree Texas heat.

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The other perk of this particular hotel was the complimentary breakfast. The kids especially loved the waffles that cooked up in the shape of Texas.

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Our “home base” couldn’t have been more ideal. It was so much fun to meet up with family each morning for breakfast, congregate around the pool each afternoon, and have a soft place to lay our head every evening after a day of Texas adventures.

Days Inn Fredericksburg: our home away from home!

San Antonio Fun!

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Thursday was the last day on the road before reaching Fredericksburg, Texas where we will hunker down for a few days and celebrate the joining of two families.

There in Fredericksburg my brother will marry the love of his life, and we will be joined by family driving and flying in from all over the country to celebrate this happy day. It will be a treat getting to see aunts and uncles we haven’t seen in a decade.

Thursday evening we were scheduled to meet up with everyone at the hotel where the entire family will make camp for the weekend, but we had all of Thursday to kill before everyone’s arrival so we made plans to explore San Antonio, a city I have always wanted to visit!

We spent Wednesday night at a hotel in the city. This allowed us to leave the car at the hotel while we walked the one mile to the Alamo and River Walk where we planned to spend the day.

We began our visit to San Antonio with a trip to the Alamo.

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Having studied the Alamo briefly in American History class 20+ years ago, I had a shallow understanding of its historical significance but it wasn’t until we visited and walked the grounds that I fully appreciated all that the Alamo represents, especially for the people of Texas.

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There’s no question that the enduring symbol for all of Texas is the old Spanish mission known as The Alamo.

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We all know the story of James Bowie, David Crockett, William Travis, and the other Texans that held out for thirteen days before finally succumbing to the Centralist army of General Santa Anna. It’s a story of courage and sacrifice that draws millions of people a year to visit this landmark in downtown San Antonio, and to carry out the words of Sam Houston when he shouted “Remember the Alamo!”

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As soon as we entered the Alamo, we could immediately feel a sense of sacredness for the events that took place at the Alamo and what it stands for.

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It was a fascinating history lesson as we learned more about the events that not only occurred on that hallowed land but also the events that led up to it and how history was altered because of it.

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We were so glad we visited.

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From there we walked a few blocks to San Antonio’s River Walk.

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Other than the Alamo, San Antonio is probably best known for the River Walk.

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Ernie Pyle once described the River Walk as “The American Venice” and it’s easy to see why. If you tried to imagine a place where the sights, sounds and flavors of Native America, Old Mexico and the Wild West blend effortlessly with the hustle and bustle of a modern city, it would probably look a lot like the San Antonio River Walk.

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Located one story below street level, the River Walk meanders along the banks of the San Antonio River and is lined with restaurants and shops to enjoy.

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Built over a long period of time, starting in the 1920’s when the San Antonio River flooded, causing several deaths and lots of damage to the city, it’s been developed into a thriving attraction that most would say is the crown jewel of San Antonio.

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For a relaxing introduction to the Riverwalk, we hopped on a boat tour of the water. Rio San Antonio Cruises offers 35-minute guided tours of the river for only $8.00. It was a great way to get background on the history of the unique space, to get a feel for navigating the Riverwalk, and to pick out a few things to see and do.

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The boat tour was fascinating and enjoyable. It was lovely to float along the river, enjoying the breeze and beautiful scenery, all while listening to a fascinating narrative about the sites we were seeing. It was well worth the cost of the boat ride!

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The remainder of the day was spent strolling along the River Walk. The girls loved peeking their heads in the cute stores along the way and Tyler loved walking along the river’s edge looking for fish and ducks in the water.

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It was so pleasant and relaxing.

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We fell in love with that area of San Antonio and soon saw why the River Walk is called the city’s “Crown Jewel.”

Next stop: Fredericksburg, Texas!

Fort Worth Stockyards

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Fort Worth, Texas is known as the City of Cowboys. One of the most popular things for families to do is spend a day at the Fort Worth Stockyards. With its brick lined streets, historic buildings, a weekly rodeo and twice daily cattle drive, this is the place where tourists come to experience the American West.

And this is where we spent the day on Wednesday.

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When we asked for suggestions of something fun to do with the kids in the Dallas, Texas area a friend suggested the Fort Worth Stockyards. I looked into it and knew at once that it was a must-see stop on our Texas journey.

The girls were excited to have an excuse to pull their cowboy hats out again.

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We arrived and easily found parking near the end of Exchange Ave. Tyler loved the parking payment system at the Stockyards that involved pushing your folded dollar bills in the slot that corresponded to your parking spot. I’ve never seen a system quite like it.

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Our first stop was the Visitor’s Center where a helpful young lady gave us the low down on the Fort Worth Stockyards. She explained the cattle drive, including what time to line up along the road and the best spots to stand to best see the longhorn cattle (and view them from the shade. A key tip in the 100 degree heat!). She also went over the various activities available and her recommendations for the best BBQ joint in town. All were helpful tips that helped structure our day and determine what we ended up seeing and doing.

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We found the Visitor’s Center to be a worthwhile stop before beginning our day at the Stockyards.

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It  had the added appeal of giant misting fans out front…another huge perk in the 100+ degree heat.

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Our first stop was the Cattle Pen Maze. It too was recommended by my friend. The cost was $6.00/ child but ended up being one of the highlights of our day at the Stockyards. The kids each received a ticket that was marked with their starting time. They then had to race the clock, seeking out the four hidden stations to punch their card, before finding their way out of the maze.

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It proved to be far more challenging than they thought it would be.

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There was a covered observation deck that extended above the maze, allowing us to look down at our kids and watch them scramble through the blind twists and turns of the maze.

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Rusty was the first one to find the four punch stations and get out of the maze. He did it in 10 minutes.

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Grace was next with a time of 13 minutes.

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Molly came in third with a final time of 16 minutes,

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And Tyler brought up the rear with a time of 20 minutes. I will say, though, that Tyler lost time because of his kind heart and willingness to backtrack and help a lost mother find her way through the maze.

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Then we walked over to the petting zoo. At $2.00/person this was a fun and affordable experience for all of us animal lovers. Once again, for the second day in a row, Molly got her goat fix and loved it.

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Tyler also LOVED feeding the goats and sheep.

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Rusty made a special friend while we were there.

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We all enjoyed this nice little petting zoo.

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Then it was time to get in position for the cattle drive.

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“The Old West comes to life before your eyes during the Fort Worth Herd’s twice-daily cattle drive. Genuine Texas cowhands drive a herd of Texas longhorns down Exchange Avenue in the Stockyards national Historic District every day at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Every detail of the cattle drive—from the saddles and chaps to the boots and hats – is authentic and historically true.”

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It was incredible to see these iconic Texan Longhorn cattle up close as they walked down the main street of town.

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What a thrill!

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It was the highlight of the day for me!

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After the cattle drive we had fun exploring the stockyards and seeing the pens where the Longhorns are held,

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And catching a glimpse of the cowboys at work.

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We also stopped in Billy Bob’s- The World’s Largest Honky Tonk.

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This 6000 person capacity nightclub is open during the day for families who want to grab a bite to eat or buy a Fort Worth souvenir. It was fun to check out the bull riding ring and the huge nightclub that becomes a line dancing haven when the sun goes down.

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I best this place gets crazy at night!

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We didn’t eat at Billy Bob’s, but walked over to Risky’s Bar-B-Q instead, as suggested by our new friend at the Visitor’s Center.

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Toby, Rusty and I followed the recommendation of the waiter and ordered the specialty: Beef Bar-B-Q ribs. The girls ordered the brisket sandwiches.

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The ribs were incredible, made all the tastier by their awesome sauce.

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We ended our day at the Stockyards with a little shopping at Stockyards Station,

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and some horseback riding…

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Hang on kiddos! Those are some wild stallions!

Next stop: San Antonio, Texas

 

Oklahoma City Zoo

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The next stop on our journey towards Texas took us to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

We woke early this morning for a quick “fill-up” at the hotel’s complimentary continental breakfast before we were on the road again. From Springfield, Missouri we had a  4 hour stretch of road to drive before reaching Oklahoma City…the next stop on our itinerary. We left by 8:00am with the goal of reaching Oklahoma City by noon.

When researching things to see and do in Oklahoma City we had a few options. I really wanted to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial which stands in remembrance of those whose lives were lost in the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, but felt that given everyone’s emotional state it was probably too heavy a place at this time, so instead we decided to spend the day at the zoo.

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After reading many reviews online I was excited to explore this zoo that received high accolades for their affordable price and awesome exhibits.

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We arrived to find the zoo empty. We had the place to ourselves, which was shocking given the fact it was the summer season. Our “out-of-town visitor” status soon became apparent when we realized that the locals, who are more familiar with Oklahoma City summer temperatures, were all home enjoying their air conditioning.

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But we didn’t let the 97 degree heat (103 degree heat index) dampen our day…although it did dampen our shirts!

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Luckily there were water misters and industrial fans sprinkled throughout the zoo.

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Each cooling spot became an oasis for these “desert travelers.”

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The nice thing about visiting Oklahoma City Zoo in July is that you have the place to yourself. There were no lines and no fellow visitors to maneuver around.

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We were so impressed with this zoo. They had such a fun variety of species that we hadn’t seen in other zoos, particularly in the reptile house and the aviary.

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Some of our favorite exhibits included:

The Pygmy Hippo:

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The Galapagos Tortoise:

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The Elephants:

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The Tiger:

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But the best exhibit, hands down, were the Gorillas.

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We spent the longest part of our day sitting at this window, interacting with this amazing group of Gorillas.

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There was a beautiful Silverback, a few female Gorillas and two babies. There was a four year old male named, “Liom,” and a two year old female named, “Rubi.”

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And they were hilarious to watch!

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It was just like we were watching preschool siblings.

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Rubi killed us. She is just starting to interact with the public and spent much of her time at the window interacting with us.

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We died when she ran along the window with her tongue to the glass, licking it all the way to the other side.

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Both babies would follow the big silverback anytime he would move across the yard, but unlike her big brother that moved in a straight line from point A to point B, Rubi would spin like a two year old doing pirouettes across the living room.

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Then she’d tip over and roll on her back when she got too dizzy.

We could have stayed there all day!

The thing that really set this zoo apart from its counterparts was the staff. We were amazed by the amount of staff that were positioned at the various exhibits around the zoo to answer the visitor’s questions and educate the public on each animal. With so few visitors, it was like having our own private, backlot tour of the zoo. They were all so informative and it greatly enhanced the experience to have an employee who personally works with the animal, telling us about that animal and answering any questions we had. It was so much more engaging than simply reading plaques on the sides of exhibits.

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There were also employees stationed at the intersections of the various sections of the zoo to direct you to your destination if you were turned around, to inquire if you needed anything, and to remind visitors to drink  water.

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The staff at the Oklahoma City Zoo was amazing!

Although we really enjoyed all the cool exotic critters, my kids were inevitably drawn to the farm animals that were so familiar. There was a nice little petting zoo area where the kids could brush goats, sheep and miniature donkeys.

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Molly, my goat whisperer, was in heaven.

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Tyler also really enjoyed the lake where you could purchase a handful of fish feed for a quarter and feed the catfish, ducks and turtles that congregated at the edge of the dock.

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The heat was intense enough that Toby indulged in a way we don’t normally, at places like the zoo, and bought everyone ice cream cones. They tasted so good. I don’t know if it was especially good ice cream or if it just tasted exceptionally good because we were so hot. Either way, our cones were delicious!

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We stayed until 4:30 pm and then drove over to Five Below. Toby’s uncle, Dave, lives in Oklahoma City with his wife and manages the Five Below store there. Since he was working, and couldn’t meet us at the zoo, we decided to come to him.

It was so great to see him and catch up, even if just for a short time.

He generously gave the kids each $5.00 to purchase a souvenir. The kids loved it, and it was so sweet of Dave.

Grace bought a cute hat, Molly purchased a new backpack, and both boys picked a Heliball after Dave told them it was the coolest toy they sold in his store.

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He was right! The boys have had a blast with their new toys. Thank you, Dave!

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It was a very hot, but VERY FUN day, in Oklahoma City.

Next Stop: Ft. Worth, Texas.

 

 

 

Lambert’s Café: Home of Throwed Rolls

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I first heard of Lambert’s Café in a children’s book I was reading aloud to the kids a few years ago. In the book the children in the story went to Lambert’s with their grandparents and there experienced the unique dining experience that is iconically Lambert’s.

I didn’t realize that Lambert’s Café was a real restaurant until we were driving through Missouri on our bus trip last year and I saw the billboards for Lambert’s Café. The tagline: “Home of Throwed Rolls”  was the giveaway that it was the same place that was highlighted in the book.

We didn’t stop there last year, but when we decided that Springfield, Missouri would be our stop for the second night of our trip I told Toby I knew just the place for dinner!

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I didn’t give much away. I just told my family that they were in for a treat. I knew the experience would be as enjoyed as the homemade southern cooking.

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We arrived just in time, walking through the doors at 8:50 pm. The restaurant closed at 9:00, but they welcomed us in with a smile and seated us at a table.

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The first clue that this dining experience would be different than other places was the table settings, which consisted of a roll of paper towels and a cup of silverware.

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Our waitress came over and took our drink orders. When she returned the kids received their second clue that this was going to be a unique dinner. The cups were huge. Rusty was thrilled. When we go out to eat my water lover always seems to be waiting on refills. There was no running out of water at this place!

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Then we ordered. The food here is homestyle, with southern classics like chicken fried steak and fried chicken being some of their top sellers.

After ordering, the fun began with a waiter yelling, “Fresh rolls!”

The kids soon picked up on how things worked at Lambert’s when they saw hands being raised around the room and rolls started flying.

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At Lambert’s Café if you want one of their delicious, homemade rolls you have to catch one.

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Don’t worry if you miss on the first try… many people do. The floor is littered with fallen fare.

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They will just send another one your way.

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Luckily we were eating dinner with Tyler, who eagerly offered to get us rolls anytime someone wanted one. He loved the “sporty” aspect to the dinning experience and caught many rolls for our table.

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In addition to the flying rolls there were also “Pass Arounds.” These were side dishes that come free with your meal. Waiters walked around with bowls of macaroni and tomatoes, black eyed peas, fried potatoes and onions, and fried okra that you could try while waiting for your meal.

We all tried fried okra for the first time and found it better than expected. Tyler was the only wouldn’t give it a try, despite the persistence of our cute waitress.

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Our stomachs were already filling up thanks to the “Pass Arounds” and the delicious rolls, when our dinners arrived.

Talk about generous servings!!

Toby and Rusty’s chicken fried steak meals came out in frying pans.

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I ordered the fried chicken and it was the BEST fried chicken I have ever had. The food was incredible. It was one of the tastiest meals we have ever had and easily measured up to our gold star standard of a Disney World Resort restaurant in both quality of food and level of interactive entertainment.

We are so glad we gave Lambert’s Café a try!

When we left we stopped at the visitor’s map to mark our hometown and record that the McCleerys were here.

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It was an awesome evening!

A Trip Down Memory Lane

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It has been almost 3 decades since I was in Waynesville, Missouri.

What a surreal experience it was stepping back into past for 30 minutes!

When we planned out our route to Texas we realized that by traveling from St. Louis, Missouri to Oklahoma City, our GPS was taking us south through Missouri via Rt. 44. This route just happened to pass by my old childhood stomping grounds.

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In the late 80s my Dad was stationed at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. It was here, in the neighboring town of Waynesville, Missouri that I attended middle school.

This was such a happy season of my life. I have such sweet memories of small town living in this one horse town that sits along old historic Rt.66.

Toby graciously indulged me as I took a trip down memory lane, eager to show off the places that held such fond memories from my life at age 10. It is crazy to think I was Tyler’s age when we moved here.

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We drove pass the elementary school that Kelly and Travis walked to each morning with my mother.

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My old middle school. (The middle school is now held in the building that was the high school when we lived there.)

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And my old neighborhood.

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Our home, where such happy memories were made, is now looking less bright and shiny then when my parents lived there. They took such pride in making it a home. My old tree house is now gone, as is my dad’s garden, and the deck where many hours were spent playing,

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But the house, fenced yard, and my favorite climbing tree are still there.

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I think the thing that struck me most was how much smaller everything looked through my grown eyes as opposed to how I remember it looking through my childhood eyes.

The front yard was so much smaller than I remember. The neighborhood seemed more compact and the streets shorter. It is funny how the places of our childhood are distorted by our childhood perception.

From there we drove downtown, passing the iconic Waynesville frog rock along the hillside leading into downtown.

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The downtown area looked much the same, just more updated from when we lived there.

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Tyler was disappointed that the Tinkle Bar,

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which I told him stories about, has since been replaced with  newer and classier establishments…

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And the grocery store that we would walk to for treats, has since gone out of business.

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But overall I was amazed by how untouched our old hometown was by the passing of time.

Who knew that a detour off Rt. 44 would lead to such a sweet trip down memory lane.

 

St. Louis City Museum- Round 2

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If you are taking a trip to St. Louis you ABSOLUTELY MUST visit the City Museum. Kids or no kids – don’t even ask what it is – put it on your bucket list RIGHT NOW.

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We first discovered it a year ago while on our cross country bus trip. Our first stop was in St. Louis and we were looking for something fun to do since it was Tyler’s birthday. We went, not knowing what to expect, and found it to be absolutely mind blowing.

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The first thing I read about (when researching the City Museum) was the famous 10 story slide (YES I absolutely said TEN STORY SLIDE) but I was not prepared for the sheer excitement, incredulous wonder, and core exhaustion that would accompany us!

The City Museum is like a living breathing work of art. An old shoe factory originally- it is evolving constantly with new additions.

In fact they have said:

“Usually, the way something gets built is a board gets together and comes up with a mission statement, and they do a search for an architect, and they go through an approval process, and they start raising funds, and by the time something gets built, they forget what it was for in the first place. When we get an idea here, we start building it that afternoon.” -City Museum

We found that to be true. We were amazed by all the new additions to the museum since our visit 10 months ago.

This place is incredible. Just look at SOME of the playground outside!

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It is no easy feat to walk through there if you’re terrified of heights like I am! It IS, however, the PERFECT place for my daredevil husband and kids…especially Tyler! Safety with the feeling of terror. There are (almost) no rules except for a few safety height requirements. The building is meant to be climbed on, in and through.

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My three boys heading in three different directions down three different tunnels!~

City Museum was collectively one of the top highlights from our trip around the country, so when we were mapping out our route to get to Texas for my brother’s wedding we deliberately routed ourselves through St. Louis so we could enjoy another day at one of the coolest places on earth!

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Here is a little history of the City Museum found on WIki:

“City Museum is a play house museum, consisting largely of repurposed architectural and industrial objects, housed in the former International Shoe building.

Popular among residents and tourists, the museum bills itself as an “eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel.” Visitors are encouraged to touch, climb on, and play in the various exhibits. “Don’t touch the art” is never commanded; although safety docents are present on each of 11 floors.

The City Museum has been named one of the “great public spaces” by the Project for Public Spaces and has won other local and international awards as a must-see destination.

City Museum was founded by artist Bob Cassilly and his then-wife Gail Cassilly. The museum’s building was once an International Shoe Company factory and warehouse but was mostly vacant when the Cassillys bought it in 1983. Construction began in January 1995.

The City Museum opened to the public on October 25, 1997. Within two years, it was drawing 300,000 visitors a year.

The museum has since expanded, adding new exhibits such as MonstroCity in 2002, Enchanted Caves and Shoe Shaft in 2003, and World Aquarium in 2004.

Cassily remained the museum’s artistic director until his death in 2011.

A circus ring on the third floor offers daily live acts. The City Museum also houses The Shoelace Factory, whose antique braiding machines makes colorful shoelaces for sale.”

The entire building is one magnificent piece of art, all intended to be touched, climbed on, explored and experienced. In a world of helicopter parenting and “Do not touch” signs this “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” encourages exploration and imagination.

They make a point of not giving out maps to the museum and instead encourage you to simply explore.

Behind every corner was a tunnel entrance or the start of another adventure. For Tyler it was heaven on earth, although  ALL enjoyed it!

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The museum is comprised of multiple floors of adventures, each with its own theme:

First Floor

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“The original part of the museum, the first floor is home to a life-size Bowhead Whale that guests can walk through and view a large fish tank from the mezzanine or the always popular “Puking Pig.”

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Also on the first floor, are a number of tunnels that run across the ceiling, hiding above a sea of fiberglass insulation cut to give the impression of icicles.

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To get into these, one can climb up a Slinky, which is an old refrigerating coil (donated by Anheuser-Busch),

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or through a tree house which leads into a giant hollowed out tree that leads to a cabin on the other side of the floor.

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The floor itself is covered with the largest continuous mosaic piece in the US, which then morph their way up columns, consuming every section of this floor. In one area is a tunnel known as the “Underground Whaleway” which runs beneath the floor and into the “Original Caves.”

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Enchanted Caves and Shoe Shaft

One of the museum’s most popular attractions, the Enchanted Caves and Shoe Shafts run through the center of the Museum, and go all the way to the 10th floor.

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Opened in 2003, the Caves are an elaborate cave system hand-sculpted by Bob Cassilly and his crew.

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From every direction, a different creature is staring back.

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Since 2007, the Caves have also held a 1924 Wurlitzer Pipe Organ from the Rivoli Theatre in New York City.

The Shoe Shafts were developed from structures built for the International Shoe distribution operation. To get the shoes from various floors to the loading dock, staff would place the shoes on spiral shafts. The Shafts opened in 2003 with one three-story spiral slide, and five years later added a ten-story slide that starts at the roof and goes down to the Caves’ entrance.”

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Shoelace Factory

The Shoelace Factory has shoelace machines from the 1890s. Visitors can order custom-made laces.

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And outside you will find: MonstroCity!!!

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Located in front of the building, MonstroCity features two Sabreliner 40 aircraft fuselages suspended high in the air,

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A castle turret,

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Four-foot-wide slinkies that can be crawled through… one very high that leads to a slide,

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That is Molly WAY up there!

And two ball pits, one for young children and one for older ones, each pit being filled with large, rubber dodge balls.

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The Cabin Inn is an early-19th-century log cabin located beneath MonstroCity. Originally the home of the son of Daniel Boone, it was owned by the Hezel family for more than a century and is now a bar and entertainment venue.

The Roof

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The roof has a small old-fashioned Ferris Wheel.

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It also has a slide that goes under a small pond.

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The pond has stepping stones that go from one side to the other.

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The roof also has a school bus that had actually worked once, extending past the edge of the building.

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Visitors can walk in the school bus and open the door from the driver’s seat.

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Also found on the roof are a giant rope swing contained in a free-standing aluminum dome underneath the roof’s centerpiece; a giant metal praying mantis.

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It is possible to climb a series of enclosed metal ladders inside the dome (of an old planetarium) to an exit at the top.

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The view from the top!

The entire experience was mind-blowing…a feast for the eyes and for all the senses. The attention to detail, the creativity and artistic detail made for incredible photo opportunities, although the grandeur simply can’t be captured by a lens.

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The little details made it an photographic treasure hunt as all of us stumbled across one cool shot after another.

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We were there 7 hours and could have stayed another 7. It was definitely one of the coolest places we have EVER been. For $12.00/ person we felt we got our money’s worth 100 times over! Honestly, I cannot even begin to tell you how A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. the City Museum is. These photos do it NO justice as most of the pictures I took just looked like abstract chaos of intertwining branches, rooms, rock, tile, coils, and everything else that the museum is created from. You absolutely have to experience it for yourself – it will blow you away.

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But be forewarned – at the end of the day you’ll be utterly exhausted but dreaming of your next visit to the City Museum!

Living fancy in St. Louis

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We arrived in St. Louis at 7:00pm.

Everyone was eager to get to our hotel after a full day of driving.

What is it about hotels that are so thrilling for kids?

I know that when I was a kid I LOVED it when we would travel and stay at motels along the way. They were such exciting places. I loved the pool, the shampoo samples, laying in a bed next to my parents and watching TV in bed. It just seemed so fancy…so  thrilling.

My kids feel the same way when we stay in a motel room. It doesn’t have to be fancy. They just love the experience.

And although we have stayed in a wide variety of motels in our travels, we have never stayed in a place quite like the hotel we stayed in last night!

We knew we were getting close when we saw this monument in the distance.

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We had reservations at St. Louis City Center Hotel. Thanks to an incredible deal on Hotels.com we were staying right in the heart of St. Louis for less than $100. We were able to get a suite that accommodated the 6 of us with two queen size beds and a pull out sofa…what a deal!

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We didn’t realize how great a deal, however,  until we arrived and walked into the lobby.

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Our jaws collectively dropped,

and Tyler spoke up loudly, saying, “I think we are at the wrong hotel. This is too fancy for us!”

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It was one of the nicest hotels the kids had ever stayed at.

Our room was huge, easily accommodating our big crew in one room.

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After settling in we headed up to the roof to get a view of the city at night from the balcony.

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We could see the Arch lit up in the distance.

That was also where the pool was located.

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The kids thought it was pretty cool to be swimming on the roof of a hotel in the middle of St. Louis.

It was pretty awesome!

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It felt wonderful to just float and relax after being in the car for 9 hours.

Then it was off to bed.

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It was a perfect first stop on our way to Texas!

 

 

 

Tyler’s Gotcha Day

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Today we celebrated our 4 year anniversary of being Tyler’s parents. Today was his “Gotcha Day,” which means four years ago on this day we stood before a judge and committed our hearts, home, and life to Tyler. That was the day he became Tyler McCleery. It was one of the happiest days of my life. My heart grew 10 sizes that day.

Every year on the anniversary of our boys’ adoption days we celebrate the blessing of joining our lives with an activity of their choosing. The activities vary from year to year and from boy to boy. There have been “Gotcha Days” that involved going out for ice cream, playing at the park, seeing a movie and even playing tennis as a family. The only constants are:

1. The “Gotcha Day” boy does the choosing.

2. The activity is a whole family, bonding experience.

This year we were on the road for Tyler’s “Gotcha Day.” We are on our way to Texas for my brother’s wedding and this was our first long driving stretch as we made our way from western Pennsylvania to St. Louis, Missouri.

We got on the road early.

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The kids each received their travel treat bag filled with snacks, games, activity books and bottled water. Everyone settled in and off we went.

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As we drove we had fun playing travel games like “Bingo,” “The Alphabet Game,” and Mad Libs.

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Tyler elected himself navigator thanks to the free maps that are handed out at rest stops along the way.

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As we traveled west we drove through many rain showers.

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Although we had a nine hour drive ahead of us we wanted to do something special to celebrate Tyler’s “Gotcha Day,” so we planned an impromptu stop in  Terre Haute, Indiana after reading some reviews online of the awesome children’s museum found in this smaller Indiana city.

The impressive reviews were the first draw. The second draw for this children’s museum was the price, which was a third of the cost of the large children’s museum found in Indianapolis. At a cost of only $8.00 a person this place was a steal!

My only concern was that perhaps it would be geared too young for the teenagers to enjoy it, but I knew they were such good sports that they would happily tag along so their little brother could enjoy this neat experience on his special day.

I didn’t need to worry. This children’s museum had something for everyone, from 9 month olds to 90 year olds…this place was incredible!

What an awesome hidden gem is tucked away in Terre Haute!

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We walked in and the fun began at the door with a cloud maker.

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We paid and began exploring.

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There was a little of everything, from interactive science exhibits to creative play areas.

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If we lived in Terre Haute when my kids were little this would have been our playground.

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The first big exhibit we encountered was a vacuum powered tube maze that hung on the wall. The kids  placed bath loofahs in the ends of the tubes, press the air button, and watched the loofah balls fly through the maze of tubes then shoot out the various ends. We all had a blast playing with this interactive toy. It set the tone for the rest of the day and gave us a preview of the fun we would have.

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One of the displays the Terre Haute Children’s Museum is best known for is their giant tree house…and rightfully so. It is epic! Tyler ran for it right away, quickly followed by his older siblings. The tree house can be accessed by a walkway on the second floor or could be entered from the base of the tree through a vertical climbing maze. At the top of the tree house there were ball shooters that could be used to launch foam balls across the room into the hanging flowers on the opposite wall. As the balls fell back to the ground they could be gathered and sent back up to the kids at the top of the tree house via a hanging basket that could be loaded with balls and be pulled up pulley style. A lot of our day was spent here.

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Tyler’s second favorite exhibit was the animal race track. Here the kids could pick an animal to race. They would pick a continent, and then pick an animal from that continent that they wanted to try racing. Then they would stand at the end of the race track and begin running down the track. As they raced red squares appeared below their feet, representing the footsteps of the animal they were racing. They had to outrun the red squares to win the race. Then at the end of the track both speeds were posted so they could see how close the race was and who the winner was.

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It was fun to see how fast or slow various animals were. We were shocked by many of them. For instance we had no idea a porcupine was such a slow poke. It only runs 2 miles an hour. Who knew?

On the first floor they also had a cool Dino Dig site,

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a pump piano that Rusty enjoyed,

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and a “Build and Race your own Bottle Car” experience:

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On the second floor there was an agricultural area, which is fitting, I suppose, since we were in Indiana. Here the kids learned more about farming and got to milk a cow, drive a combine, and play with a mommy pig and her piglets. It was so cute!

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On this floor they also had a race car the kids could climb in:

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AND a bubble wand so big that they could climb inside the bubble. It was awesome!

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One of the neatest parts of this children’s museum was the many areas set up for creative play. Here the kids could use their imagination and play pretend.

There was a kitchen:

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A Supermarket:

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A construction site:

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And a Vet’s office:

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All were set up with such wonderful attention to detail, making kids feel as though they had stepped into a mini version of  real world places. Even my big kids had fun playing pretend.

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We stayed until it closed at 5:00 and then continued on to St. Louis for our first night’s stay.

It was an amazing day,

one that will go down in the books…

a “Gotcha Day” that won’t soon be forgotten!

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Thanks for Terre Haute for a fun day.

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And thank you, God, for bringing Tyler into our lives four years ago.

We love you, Tyler!

adoption