August 30, 2013

Going to the Zoo!

First, I must acknowledge that there was an incredibly awesome part of our vacation that I failed to document in pictures, but don't want to leave out.  That was our stay with Aunt Debbie and Uncle Duck!  Since we had to be in Detroit Friday morning, they let us spend the night before with them (they live a little closer than we do).  Not only did we enjoy a wonderful meal and just spending time talking and laughing with them, but they have a pool.  The kids spent hours jumping, swimming, and splashing.  They also have a large collection of "dive buddies" - pool toys designed to sink to the bottom.  Ryan was desperate to join the big kids in diving for the toys, so I would give him a push to the bottom where he would retrieve a buddy and then swim up where I would catch him at the surface (I usually was diving with him the whole time, but a few times he asked me to stay at the surface and I - nervously - allowed him his independence and gave him that space).  He loved it - so much that sometimes I had to hold him back from diving down under so he could take a breath!  When Allie got stung at the Lake House (and wasn't feeling up to much action), we watched a few of the Planet Earth movies.  Ryan was especially intrigued by the water ones, so he was thrilled to be swimming like a "Scooper Diver" (scuba diver) in Aunt Debbie & Uncle Duck's pool!  Allie was more nervous about diving down, but would stick her whole face in the water to search for dive buddies through the cool goggles they had!

Since we had to be in Detroit for our re-fingerprinting, and we wanted to extend our vacation a little longer, we decided to make it a full day and visit the Detroit Zoo.  We've been to almost every other zoo in Michigan, and it is shocking that it took us so long to visit Detroit!
They have a butterfly house - Allie's favorite.  
She was in heaven - although none of them landed on her like the one had on our hike.
 Truthfully, I was tired and my brain was a it foggy.  As a result, I was a total sucker and got talked into purchasing a ride package at the entrance.  So, the kids got to do a lot of rides....
On the train!  Their favorite.
 Because the ride package included tickets for Lucas and I, but we weren't interested in riding the carousel, the kids got 2 rides.  They were thrilled.
I loved trying to catch them and their reflections in the mirrors!
 You might wonder what he is doing with his face.  He is roaring.  Because he is riding a T Rex.  He roared every time he went by us!
 This time, on the alligator, he made a nom-nom-nom sound as he went by - because the alligator would eat us.
 The first time she rode sea horses.  The second time she rode a triceratops.  But most important was that she managed to be seated next to some big girls.  She loves hanging with the "big" girls.
While the day wasn't especially hot, the kids kept complaining about the heat.  Thankfully, the zoo has these mist stations.  The kids loved being able to control the mist, and we all enjoyed the chance to cool down.  It definitely ranked high on my list of pros!
Eating some of the snacks Aunt Debbie packed.  Thank you, Aunt Debbie!  They were a hit!
 Honestly, looking back, I wish we had saved the zoo for its own day.  Between jumping from the lake house to the hotel to Aunt Debbie & Uncle Ducks, the stress of dealing with Allie's reaction to the bees, and getting to the zoo late morning because we had already spent part of our morning going through security, waiting in line, and getting fingerprinted we started our zoo trip pretty exhausted.  We have never had a zoo trip so filled with complaining, arguing, and whining - and not just from the kids!  I know we would have enjoyed our time so much more if all we were doing for the day was the zoo.  But we didn't.  So we tried to make the best of it.
Tired boys.
We did get to see some great animals.  A few we have never seen at another zoo!
Grizzly bears!  I've never seen any at a zoo before!
 The very active tiger.
 Crocodiles.  As we left I called out, "After while, crocodile!" and my kids were sufficiently embarrassed by their nerdy mother.
We had a great time, but we were relieved when we pulled into our driveway.  After a summer filled with travel and adventures we were happy to be home!

August 29, 2013

The Lake House

As you know, we love our annual work-cation at the Lake House.  It is one of our favorite events of the summer.  We look forward to it with great anticipation, and this year was no different.  We couldn't wait for our wonderful week at the end of the summer.  Then we got a letter from the US government letting us know that our re-fingerprinting appointment (something we have to do for the adoption to keep our paperwork current) was Friday morning of the week we were supposed to be at the Lake House.  So our week was getting cut considerably short.  But we figured that was no problem.  We would just make the most of the 3.5 days we had there and love every minute.

You can probably see where this is we're going to start with the bad first.  Just get it out of the way so that we can then focus on the good.  The first night there, I noticed there seemed to be a nest of bees (or some stinging creature) in the stairs going down to the beach.  I made a mental note to be careful on the stairs.  Noting was not enough.  We had been there just over 24 hours when Allie got stung.  By the end of the day, she got stung 2 more times (every time she went outside, poor girl), and she had an allergic reaction (much thanks to our friend who is an ER doctor and treated her over the well as technology that lets me send pictures to the doctor 4 hours away to help in a diagnosis).  Did I mention I got stung too?  I can attest that it really, really hurts!  So we stopped going outside.  Then I noticed that we all (the kids and I, at least) had bites all over our feet and ankles...and there were these little, black, jumping bugs in the beds and on the furniture.  Fleas.  As I was mentally gearing myself to just deal with them for one more day, I discovered a gigantic spider bite on Allie's arm.  I was done.  Thankfully, Lucas was too and we packed up and spent our last night at a hotel - swimming in the pool and blissfully bug free!
I made sure I gave her the needed medical attention before taking the picture to document this moment.  I am a good parent.  I promise!
 Now for the good parts.  Because there were many wonderful moments in that short time that I don't want to get lost in the bad, buggy ones... For example, we had 2 wonderful times at the beach before the stinging started.  In those 2 trips we spent hours splashing in the water, playing in the sand, soaking up the sun, and practicing swimming.  Pure summer bliss.
Wading in with their noodles.
 A favorite tradition - calling the whales.
 Papa taught them to blow bubbles through their noodles.  Ryan loves it and is a pro.
 Allie always has trouble keeping her noodle in the water...
 Riding her noodle.
 Resting in the chairs (that were an AWESOME) new addition to the beach this year!
 Of course, we had to continue our annual tradition of the hike.  This year, we made it a brand new adventure by hiking all the way around the lake!
Through the woods!
 I wish I could remember what he was telling us, but regardless I love that face!
 Allie spent the time collecting pretty leaves.
 At one point, Allie found this balloon.  I tried to convince her it was trash and should be left alone.  She informed me it was a TREASURE and it bopped along behind her the rest of the way.
 My two favorite guys.
I should note that while I was taking this picture, a butterfly landed on Allie's hand and stayed there for several seconds.  It was, hands down, the most monumental moment of the whole trip for her - maybe of the summer.
 Nana and Poppy stopped by for a visit.  Sadly, I took almost no pictures of their visit (I was too busy having fun).
Playing card games.
Another favorite tradition is a trip to the park...or two.  We LOVE this park, and as the kids get older (and we get less nervous about their safety) we spend more and more time there!  This year, they tried out some new things that they were previously too small to enjoy.
Spinning on this strange wheel things.  Daddy would lift them up, they would grab on, and then he would spin them around...
 ...and catch them!  
It looks painful to me, but it quickly became their favorite thing.  We had to make them take breaks!
Of course, we had to get a few pictures that have become a tradition.  Every year, as I take the picture, I think that it can't possibly be that much different from the year before.  They haven't grown THAT much, right?
A collage of the last 3 summers.
And then I look back and am amazed at how much they have changed and grown!  This is certainly the most bittersweet part of this trip every year.  We love spending time at the park and getting these pictures every year, but once I'm home and looking through them, it pains me a little to see so clearly how quickly time is passing!
This year.  
They have grown into such hams!
 As I took the pictures this year, I also started to wonder how many years they will willingly pose for these pictures?  Will I be able to coax jr. highers onto the bus or double slide for posterity's sake?  Will I want to?
The past 3 summers.
For now, I'm going to hold onto the feeling at the park - simply enjoying the moment.  Relishing every second.  Delighting in this age and stage.  It really is so much fun!
This year.
Work was completed (for Lucas), several books were read (by Kim), many wonderful memories were made (by us all).  Overall, the work-cation was a success.  At the very least, we are looking forward to next year being better!

August 28, 2013

Daddy's Big Race

Sometime back in May, Lucas' brother called and said something along the lines of "I'm fat and out of shape, you're fat and out of shape, let's train for and run a half marathon.*"  So they did.
*I wasn't part of the conversation, but this is the condensed version that was relayed to me later.
Pre-race.  Is it just me, or do they look a little nervous?
Truth be told, I wasn't as supportive as I should have been in the beginning.  He started his training right after my ankle injury, and I was (to be frank) jealous.  Turns out nothing makes you desperately miss running more than not being able to run at all.  I had the same experience when I was on bed rest with the twins.  So he was out running many miles while I was at home, stuck on the couch, trying to keep track of my energetic children.  I was a bit grumpy...
At the start.  Can you spot Lucas?
Thankfully, I got over myself and was able to jump in and be supportive.  He was training to run the longest race of his life after all!  After his training race (a 6k at the Nautical Festival), I remembered how much I enjoy cheering at races.  It brought back wonderful memories from my cross country days, and I was suddenly so excited (a kind stranger giving us a cowbell may have helped - gotta love more cowbell!)
Logan at roughly the 5 mile point.  He was #6 overall at this point!
High fives!
After cheering them on at the start, we drove out to roughly the 5 mile point, an easy corner for us to get to that just happened to be at the top of a long series of uphills.  We felt like it was a good spot to cheer on the runners...with some cowbell!
The girls taking turns with the cowbell.
We made it in time to cheer on the first runner, and only missed the last handful.  Several runners thanked us for cheering them on, a few gave high fives, and one asked if we could take the trash he had been carrying for a few miles!  I talked to a few runners later and they said that not only was there almost no one to cheer them on during the race, but at the point they saw us there also hadn't been anyone manning the drink stations!
There was a police officer stationed at our corner and our crew kept him company.
High Fives for D!
High fives for the camera!
Note: I wish I had kept my camera up to get a picture of Lucas trying to high five Ryan - who ran around and hid and made Lucas use up a few extra seconds trying to get him!
After we had cheered on the majority of the runners, we hurried back to the finish line - in time to see the first place runner (who was WAY ahead of everyone else - we assume he's a professional) and to see the runner who took the second place medal running the here, there, and everywhere BUT the actual 13.1 mile course (thankfully the guy who actually took second place talked him into giving back the medal that he didn't win).
Trying to keep the kiddos entertained while we waited...and waited...
Also fun, for us, was that one of our church members (who was one of the VBS volunteers, so we had been together all week) was also running the race!  It was fun to see him, cheer him on, and keep his wife company!
Mr. Craig crossing the finish line!
I completely missed a picture of Logan crossing the finish line because they didn't have the fork marked very well at the end, so Logan took the road that wasn't visible from where we were standing.  Suddenly, he appeared!  And crossed before I had time to register that it was him, let alone get my camera in place!  He finished faster than he hoped - even after his knee went out and he had to walk a mile!
The twins were getting antsy, so I took them up the final stretch a bit so they could watch for Daddy.
At the 6k, there were several kids who joined their parents for the final stretch and ran with them across the finish line.  The twins remembered and were hoping to do the same for this race.  I told them that if no one else was around Daddy (that he would be trying to beat), and if he was okay with it (i.e. not trying for a time-boosting kick), that they could maybe join him.  It turned out that he wasn't racing anyone and was game for the company so they jumped in and joined him for the final .1 miles :)
Chasing Daddy and loving it!
Let's race, Daddy!
Crossing the finish line - with our whole crew to the left to cheer him on!
Note: see my Dad with the cowbell?  When I complained that the finish line cheering was pathetic in comparison with the feat these runners had accomplished, my Dad took on ringing in all of the runners (except for perhaps the very last few...because we needed to leave).  More than one runner expressed their appreciation for the cowbell.
His 2 goals were to 1) finish and 2) do the whole 13.1 miles without walking and he did!  In fact, he finished 11 minutes faster than he anticipated finishing!  Hooray!
Post-race - they look much more relaxed and happy!
While Logan wants to keep going and take on a full marathon (run, Logan, run!), Lucas is satisfied with this being the longest race he ever runs.  I'm so proud of his amazing achievement!  Hopefully, I can keep him running so he doesn't lose the amazing endurance he has built up!
All 3 of "our" runners post-race with their medals!
 Personally, I think we should make this an annual event...who's in for next year? :)

August 27, 2013

Lightning McQueen's Race Track

Since Papa & Gigi were in town for race weekend, we figured we would take them over to the Speedway.  We walked around the different tents.
Driving the giant lawn mowers in the New Holland tent.

 We got the wristbands for the bounce places.  The kids had a BLAST bouncing and sliding.

We stopped at the Chevy tent and the next thing we knew, the kids were getting their picture taken next to a race car!
 And then Lucas and I joined them.  You can't help but get sucked in.  We also filled out some form for free t-shirts...
Originally, our plan was to just walk around and do the bouncy castles and then head home...but we found noise canceling reducing headphones for the kids and ended up decided to try watching the timed trials again.  We got some lunch and waited for the race cars to be ready, and then we headed into the grandstand.
The cars lining up.  The third car from the left was #95...and red...Ryan was pretty excited and we made a point of keeping track of that car!
The kids did MUCH better with the special headphones than they did last year with just earplugs.  I think next year, if we do it again, we will put ear plugs in under the headphones to really make it noise cancelling.  But they worked well enough for the kids to stick it out through about half of the time trials.
 So Intent.
Later that night, I was talking with Ryan about how cool it was that we got to see Lightning McQueen race.  He looked at me funny and said, "Mom, that wasn't Lightning."  "Yes, it was!" I responded, "Didn't you see number 95?  It was red!  That was Lightning!"  He laughed and said, "Oh, mom!  Lightning isn't in OUR life.  That wasn't him!"  No matter how much I tried to convince him, he was confident it was just a (cool) coincidence that there was a red car with the number 95, but adamant that it was NOT Lightning McQueen.  Not because Lightning isn't real, but because he just doesn't live in our life...But we still call it Lightning McQueen's Race Track, so maybe we'll see him there another time...