Friday, July 31, 2009

School shopping

Last night the kids and I were at Wal-Mart buying school supplies. School starts in 26 days. They only have two weeks left of Camp Zone and then will attend Riverplex Camp for the last week before school starts. Eek! There is so much to do and I'm not getting it done!

Back to school supply shopping... Kaylin raced around checking out all the various folders and notebooks, deciding if she wanted Tinker Bell or cute kittens or colorful frogs. She carefully checked all the colors of the cheap notebooks before deciding for sure what she wanted. She gleefully grabbed crayons and pencils and glue sticks and scissors and tried to talk me into buying ridiculously expensive "cool" gadgets. Logan spotted a giant Hershey Kiss in the nearby clearance aisle and held it and gazed at it in drooling wonder. He was mildly impressed when Kaylin found him a notebook with a Ford Mustang on it, but had no interest in looking through the Batman, Spiderman or sports folders and grabbed two of the nearest solid colored folders just to shut me up. Logan spent the time Kaylin was hunting the perfect supplies pondering whether to spend $3.50 for the giant kiss or just spend $1 on a giant Hershey bar. Well, the boy doesn't care At. All. about school supplies, but at least he likes candy :) He chose the cheaper Hershey bar but I'll have to get him a giant kiss for Chrismas or something. It was cute how excited he was.

The schools also have a new district-wide uniform policy this year. Shirts (at their school) have to be navy, white or hunter green. Pants can be khaki, black or navy. No labels or logos allowed and no decoration. Kaylin is crushed. She will no longer be able to wear hot pink polka dot tights with an orange and purple striped skirt and a bright red and yellow top. The girl loves her colors and loves to stand out so the drab uniforms are not her favorite thing. Kaylin announced last night that she wants all white shirts so she can stain them different colors and protect her reputation. Urgh. Kaylin has given me a full understanding of why my mom never allowed me to have anything white until junior high (and then it was still a mistake.) I did buy a couple of white shirts for Logan, though. As long as he doesn't wear them on spaghetti day they'll probably still be white when he outgrows them :) Oh, the point I originally intended to make about the uniforms was that I better get shopping asap or my kids will have no pants because they'll be sold out. I bought most of their shirts, but since they actually need to TRY ON the pants it just hasn't happened. This weekend for sure. Yippee, something to look forward to. Not. Logan would probably rather hike to the "hungry rock" than try on pants!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Aargh, the Hungry Rock. Part 2

While we technically had use of the waterpark until 3pm and use of the amusement park until 10pm, we only had our hotel room until 11am. The kids and I were at the waterpark for the 9am opening and we swam until 10:30, rushed back to the room for quick showers, changed and were miraculously checked out by 11. The plan was to go back to the state park and eat lunch and hike at least one more trail and then go back to the resort on our way out of town for a picture with a lion cub. As we pulled into the state park Logan loudly grumped about how he sure hoped we wouldn't have to walk all the way back to "That Hungry Rock." I love the kid, but I kind of wanted to smack him. Hard.

So we ate our hot dogs and set off on a (wait for it) 0.4 mile (!) hike to I can't remember the name canyon. We hike down into this canyon and it comes to a dead end. A dead end with an amazing, beautiful waterfall. It's seriously one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, this rocky canyon/waterfall. We're completely in awe and spend several minutes taking in the surroundings. We then begin to head back to the car (I'm forming ideas of coming back for the day BY MYSELF) when I hear Logan's deep little grumpy voice warning other hikers that "You might want to go a different way because this trail's a DEAD END." And then Kaylin's loud, perky "Yeah, but a DEAD END with a beautiful waterfall!" And then Logan's "Yeah, it was awesome, but it was a DEAD END!" AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

On back to the resort for a picture with the lion cub. Obviously, I don't care a hoot about the picture, I want to hold and pet the lion cub! It was all cute and growly at us (in a good, happy way) and I was in love. Kaylin then begged to hold the leopard. Eh, why not? We played with the squirmy leopard for a couple of minutes. We now have three family pictures holding a tiger, lion and leopard cub. Cute, cute, cute. Even Logan could find nothing to complain about :)

We hit the amusement park area one last time. Logan went on a few rides while Kaylin and I blew a few bucks on the candy carnival game. It was part skill crane and part that carnival game where you drop quarters and the moving wall pushes them. If you're skillful and lucky, more quarters (and prizes) drop off the edge. Anyway, instead of coins this game had candy. You scooped candy, dumped it onto two moving ledges and it pushed candy into your bin. Kaylin was quite good at it and we won lots of junk candy and a few cherry Zotz. Yum.

We were all really tired so we headed home ~1pm. We got home in time to rest before heading to Mollie's 2nd birthday party at my parents' house. I can't believe Mollie is two! Anyway, the kids had a great time playing with their cousins. It was a big fun day. Now I get to go back to work :)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Finally, Starved Rock! Not.

For pretty much as long as I can remember I've wanted to visit Starved Rock State Park. It's a little over an hour away so there's really no good reason I've never been. I suppose other destinations always trumped it. Anyway, after how much the kids loved the water park resort a few weeks ago I thought we'd try the one near Starved Rock. I'd heard good things about the resort from friends and figured I'd finally get to see the state park.

Friday morning Gene had to go to the DMV for a license plate sticker and I had to go to the podiatrist to pick up my custom orthotics. Hurray for getting older :) We left for Starved Rock a little before 10 and arrived at Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Lodge around 11. I wanted to reserve a room and then head to the state park, but they had a room ready for us! At 11am! And they gave us our waterpark/amusement park wristbands. At 11am!

By this point the kids had seen the waterpark, the huge building that housed the amusement park, the miniature golf course and the castle playground. They don't wanna go on no boring hike by the same boring river that runs through our boring town! They wanna swim and go on rides and play mini golf! Right now! And forever!

Oh, all right kids, we'll swim first. But we're GOING hiking later this afternoon! Swim, swim, swim, check out the amusement park and pile into the van for the less than half mile drive to the state park. Picture with a giant stump, picture with a crooked tree, wander around the visitor lodge museum and eat ice cream cones. (All of this in a period of maybe 15-20 minutes.)

Well, Logan's exhausted with this whole state park visit. He's ready to go back to the hotel. He's tiiiiiiiired. I figured we all could handle the 0.3 mile "hike" to at least see Starved Rock. Whine, whine, whine, drag, drag, drag. We made it all the way there! All 0.3 miles! Soooooooo thirsty, sooooooooo tired. Fine. (Seriously folks, we hike at Forest Park Nature Center a lot. It's lots of uphill climbing and we hike WAY more than 0.3 miles on a PAVED trail.) So back to the van, back to the hotel, and Logan is forced to take a nap. He does! And he wakes up refreshed and ready for rides and the arcade and more swimming.

As an unexpected bonus, a traveling zoo show was at the resort. We attended the 45 minute program and got to pet a turtle, a skunk, a baby raccoon and several other small animals. The woman then brought out a baby leopard, a baby tiger and a baby lion. After the show they did pictures with the baby cats. I know how wrong it was. I know my boss would about kill me if she knew I did it. I know places like this shouldn't really be supported to keep bringing poorly bred big cats into the world. BUT... I got to hold and bottle-feed a baby tiger. And then I got to keep it on my lap and pet it for a couple of minutes. If we're still here today at noon, I think I'll hold the baby lion. Yep, I'm totally gonna do it :)

I suppose it's "possible" that I'll get to hike a couple more trails today. I doubt it. We drove up to the Starved Rock resort (just to see it and drive past while Logan whined) and Gene and I decided we will come back and stay there WITHOUT kids!

Well, guess I better get on my swimsuit and get ready for another long bout in the waterpark. They have some kind of ducky race at 8:45am so that will be a "can't miss" for Kaylin. This place really is fun. Well, as long as I don't have to go on the Tilt-a-Whirl again! I went twice in a row with Logan last night and actually felt a little sick afterward :)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Day Out With Zoe

I've been a big, giant slacker about having a friend party for Kaylin's past three birthdays. Work's been intense the past three Junes and Kaylin's July 1st birthday has just WHAM! hit me out of nowhere. We've always celebrated well with family and with a weekend getaway. I'm not blowing her off! It's just that I've said she could have a day with her best friend Zoe for two years now and haven't come through. Until today.

We picked up Zoe at 10am and headed directly to the pottery painting place in the Heights. Kaylin picked a cat figure, Zoe a unicorn and they got painting. When finished, we walked up to the tower and went to the top. We played at a couple of nearby playgrounds and then headed to Monical's for an awesome pizza (and salad with ranch dressing) lunch. We then came to our house for a while so the girls could play with Tiger. On to the zoo where we got ice cream or slushies, the botanical gardens and then Hallmark for "party favor" Webkinz. We pulled into Zoe's driveway to drop her off at 5pm. It was a very fun day and both girls (and I) had a great time.

I had been a little worried because Zoe can be extremely shy. I didn't know if she'd be afraid of me or spend the day crying for her mom. She was completely fine from the first minute. At one point she made a comment about how being with me was like being with her own mom (I think it was a compliment) and then she sprayed me with Awesome Spray (a little spray water bottle the girls were using to spray everything they found awesome) because I work at the zoo so I'm awesome :) (She's an animal person for sure.) Anyway, her mom was waiting in the driveway when we dropped her off and she was so upset to be home she pretty much just jumped out of the car and ran to the house. She came back out long enough to give Kaylin a tearful goodbye hug, but wouldn't even look at her mother she was so sad to be home.

The kids had a very full great day. It ended up costing me ~$90. I figure that's FAR less $ than a party at the zoo (even with my 50% discount) with favors for a bunch of kids! I'll have to push the Day of Fun concept in the future. Good times, good times.


This morning was also Logan's final tee-ball game. The coach pitched to the kids for the first time (each kid got 3 pitches and then hit from the tee if necessary.) Logan hit the pitches in all three innings. He also made a good catch at 2nd base. The kids each received a blue participation ribbon at the end of the game, but Logan was far more interested in the snack. Logan's been asking about other sports. Especially football and basketball. Sigh. I hate sports. At least his genetics will most likely prohibit him from ever being on a (cringe) traveling team.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer sports and whining about my feet

The kids completed their first week of swimming lessons and it's the last week of tee-ball. Thanks to weekly pool time at camp and our weekend of swimming, Logan is finally dog-paddling a little bit. It's probably the most labor-intensive swimming I've ever seen, but at least he's doing it! Kaylin's a good enough swimmer to safely go off the diving boards by herself and swim underwater for rings, but when it comes to actual strokes and breathing, she's having a hard time. I think she takes after me in that when her teachers explain a complicated arm stroke that also involves kicking feet and turning your head to breathe, it just doesn't make sense. She needs to actually do it to learn it and they seem to practice each stroke only once before moving on to the next, even more confusing stroke. Too much talk about many confusing body movements and not enough practice! Kaylin even had an instructor all to herself at a make-up lesson on Saturday and her instructor still flitted about from stroke to stroke and concentrated on what Kaylin was already good at.

Tee-ball has been a blast and I will miss it next year when Logan moves on to coach pitch. The difference between Logan's coordination this year and last year is amazing! He went from barely being able to hit a ball off a tee or catch ANYTHING, to being able to hit and catch/stop balls. He's even played first base (the only position that requires skill) a couple of times and done fairly well. He's really into the game and enjoys it.

Tee-ball has very few rules. It is about teaching the kids the basics of hitting, catching and throwing. It's hilarious to watch a bunch of 5 and 6-yr-olds run from first base to the pitcher's mound or run from first to third. Each hit gets one base, except for the final hitter automatically gets a "home-run." The youngest kids can barely make it around the bases. I've seen kids run from home to third, the entire team mob the ball and some major celebrating when an out is accomplished (only at first base, nowhere else allowed...) The parents have been well-behaved this year. I've observed no fights with coaches about preserving Little Timmy's feelings by allowing him to stay on base when he's thrown out at first. Good parents.

Work's been same-old, same-old. The piglets are getting huge and starting to turn red. The crowds continue to come. We had over 45,000 visitors the first month of the new exhibit. That's fantastic for us! I finally saw a podiatrist and was not at all surprised to be diagnosed with plantar fasciaitis. (sp?) It's when the muscle between your heel and front of your foot (the arch muscle?) gets inflamed and tightens up every time you don't use it. Then when you stand, the tightened muscle gets microtears and hurts terribly. It takes forever to heal because you need to stand and walk. Anyway, the podiatrist made me some custom shoe inserts and until they come in, taped up my right foot. I also got some anti-inflammatory meds that actually work for the pain. Ibuprofen was doing nothing for me. I've been doing stretches and icing my feet. (Fun!) My six days off work last week helped a lot and my feet are significantly better. I wish they were ALL better, though :)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The amazing $10 Tootsie Pop

I finally had a few days off of work and was eager to get the heck out of Peoria. I knew I wanted to go to Chicagoland, but had only a vague idea what I wanted to do. We started out driving to Schaumburg and going to a few stores and eating at Fuddruckers. The mega-extrovert who scared Logan last year was working, but he was busy enough he only came around a few times and didn't focus his crazy on my kid. Logan actually thought he was pretty funny this time.

We then drove on to Gurnee Mills mall. The kids were amazed by Six Flags Great America, but even more amazed by a hotel with a bunch of waterslides coming out of it. They wanted to stay there! Sorry kids, it's too late in the day to stay at a waterpark resort and make it worth our money. We stayed at a Comfort Inn and shopped at the mall instead. Kaylin bought some fairy wings with her birthday money, Logan raced slot cars and pretended to drive boats at Bass Pro Shop and I enjoyed being away from home and not at work (even though it was my usual day off...) We ate at Rainforest Cafe and had an insane volcano dessert with a lit sparkler on top to celebrate Kaylin's birthday. It was this huge brownie, ice cream, whipped cream, fudge and caramel concoction that made me not want to eat anything sweet for the entire next day.

The vague plan for the next day was to drive to Milwaukee Zoo. Logan was up early with me and we decided to have an adventure. We went and checked out the waterpark resort. The waterpark looked pretty amazing, the arcade was awesome, the whole atmosphere was fun- everything one would expect. I had done some research online and knew the outrageous nightly cost, but couldn't think of anything the kids would like to do more than stay at this place. I went to the check-in and asked about availability. The girl gave me a better deal than I found online and then went ahead and gave me wristbands for the water park. We technically weren't supposed to be able to get them until 1pm, but she gave them to me at 7:30am. She also took our cell number so they could call when our room was ready. It wasn't guaranteed until 4pm, but they called us around noon. We spent the morning at the mall, ate an early lunch and then checked in to KeyLime Cove. We immediately changed into swimsuits and played in the wave pool and on the slides for hours. The kids could have swam all day, but Gene and I wussed out and lured the kids out of the pools with promises of the arcade. We played games and more games and the kids won ~200 tickets. At the prize counter, Logan had eyes for only one thing. An orange Tootsie Pop. 75 tickets. He could have gotten several junky toys for his share of the tickets, but he wanted the sucker. He also got a tiny pair of handcuffs and a plastic beagle. Gene and I laughed about the Tootsie Pop and how it had probably cost us $10. Immediately after getting our ticket prizes, we ate dinner at one of the many resort restaurants. When the bill came, something else came with it. Displayed fortune cookie style on the bill tray were four Tootsie Pops! One was orange. We were a little shocked :)

The resort was a blast! We swam this morning from 9 until noon and then headed home. The kids were talking about "next time" before we even left. Oh, I forgot to mention that Six Flags had 4th of July fireworks and we had a perfect view from the resort parking lot. (Gene had been very worried about the kids getting to see fireworks. Me, not so much... But hey, what amazing convenience with just a short walk back to the room with drinks, a toilet and NO traffic or crowds.) I thought KeyLime Cove had all the fun of the far more gigantic Wisconsin Dells resorts, but with a 2 minute walk to the fun rather than a 15 minute trek. The resort was at or very nearly at capacity and our waits for waterpark attractions, food and even check-in were completely acceptable. It was worth the $$$$. And I still have two more days off!