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Spring Break (Catching Up)

Spring Break (Catching Up)

How did I miss posting about our spring break road trip?!!  We traveled to St. Louis (as we have done before) and took with us special guests Uncle Nate and Aunt Kerry (which we haven’t done before).  I suppose it is a bit late to write a long play-by-play of our visit, but it is worth noting that we went and were SO glad we did.  We visited some old favorite places and some new spots, but were especially happy about having rich times with so many different parts of our family.

Spring Break-The People

Spring Break-The People

Road trip adventures and tourist destinations are great, but the best part of our spring break trip was the people we got to see.  We met some memorable new people along the way and had fun recording names and a brief note about each of them in my travel book.  Our tow truck driver, the mime, a hard working security guard, a stone carver–so many interesting people, each with their own life and story.  (Speaking of which, what’s the story on these crazies?!!)

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Most important, however, was the time we were able to spend with family.  My grandparents were, as always, welcoming hosts and it was a joy to be together again, sharing conversations and adventures and meals and even a jigsaw puzzle or two.

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Than took the kids on an adventure trip one day so I could have some dedicated time with my grandparents, giving us a chance to do some gardening, visit the grocery store (a favorite pastime for the two cooks in the house) and talk about life.

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We were also grateful for a well hosted family dinner at my aunt’s house, providing a chance time to catch up with aunts, an uncle, and cousins.  Another cousin came to visit for lunch one day, two cousins came for dinner one evening, and much to the kids’ delight we got to see their second cousin three times during the five days we were there.  I am so grateful for all the St. Louis Shaws who adjusted their schedules to be with us.

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God gave us safety, rescue, new experiences, good memories, and rich times as a family of four and an extended family of over 15, with lots of other combinations in between.  I am so very grateful.

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Spring Break-The Destinations

Spring Break-The Destinations

Once we finally made it to St. Louis, we enjoyed mini trips to nearby attractions both familiar and new.

The most original destination was our day trip to Maramec Cavern.  My kids had never been inside a cave before and we were all impressed with the stunning formations, fun stories from our guide, and the amazing size and variety of things God made underground.  Katya and her second cousin were good exploring buddies and Nathan proved to be an able assistant to his great-grandmother.  Lunch at a fun red barn restaurant, a stop at my grandparent’s favorite winery, an assortment of car games and songs, and a dinnertime visit to the California Pizza Kitchen rounded out the day nicely.

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Another popular, although familiar, destination was the Butterfly House at Faust Park.  March is “Blue Morpho Month” there, so the greenhouse was all aflutter with extra iridescent blue butterflies as well as the other usual varieties.

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Our trip to the zoo was cut short by rain and cold, but we still got to see the sea lion chase Than’s hat with great gusto and laugh at the orangutans antics, including a momma protecting her baby.

However, our favorite St. Louis destination once again was the City Museum.  We’ve been there as a family three times now, but there is always plenty that is new.  We spent the entire day inside, with only a brief foray out for lunch at a nearby city diner.

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I think the most original treat on this visit was the chance to play the vintage silent movie theater organ.  It is incorporated into the main center shaft of the museum, with pipes and air-powered instruments tucked away around the central ten story slide.

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We happened to see the repairman at work on this intricate instrument, and he let us behind the gate and gave us a “tour.”  He let us all experiment with the three keyboards, the foot pedals, and the different sounds.  Then he played his favorite pre-recorded selection that showed off lots of the features of this old treasure.  It was a very unique experience, and also special to talk with a dedicated volunteer about a craft he is passionate about.

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Of course the tunnels and murals are always a hit, and the kids were much more willing to go off exploring together.  The game this time was for them to crawl in a passageway and one of the adults to guess which exit they would pop out at.  We were rarely right!

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Our day at the City Museum was also the only day all week we didn’t have rain, so we were free to explore the outdoor climbing and sliding several times as well.  Out here, it was fun for a kid and parent to team up and crawl around together, then eventually run into the other half of the family and switch partners.

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A final special feature of our City Museum day was the fun juggler/mime circus show that ended up featuring Daddy as a willing and hilarious volunteer.  I think the kids had almost as much fun watching him as they did watching the talented professional performer, and it was certainly memorable!

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Spring Break-The Journey

Spring Break-The Journey

What on earth do you do when, one and one half hours into a long-awaited spring break road trip, you end up taking a photo like this…

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Yep, that’s our van getting hauled away on a tow truck.  Although not the beginning any of us had in mind, it ended up to be the start of a good week together, watching God’s goodness time and time again.

While waiting for rescue, we had good council from friends and family on the phone, free roadside towing from our insurance, a good rock-throwing game made by Nathan, and Katya’s generous sharing of her cool new 3D puppy book.  Doesn’t Than look great in those glasses?

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After a several hour delay and the generous rescue provided not only by the tow truck driver but also by Than’s generous and patient parents, we were in a different vehicle and on the road again.  I was all for throwing in the towel at that point and heading home, but fortunately my adventurous husband prevailed.  Following a surprisingly pleasant day of travel with reasonable and flexible kids, we made it to our first destination, the Crown Center in Kansas City, MO.

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First item of business?  A much-looked-forward-to dinner at Fritz’s Restaurant.  Why, you ask, were we so looking forward to this dinner?  At Fritz’s, instead of needing a waitress, you call your order in to the kitchen on a tableside phone and eventually a little train comes driving around the overhead track to lower your food down onto your table!  So cool!  (You can see a video of it at the restaurant link above).

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Then we headed back to our super cool hotel room on the 18th floor.  What a view!

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The next morning Than treated the kids to a swim, and me to a delightful hour of peace and quiet.  We enjoyed breakfast by a nearby fountain, complete with a musical water feature show, and had a good exploratory walk that included a stop at a little park with this neat-looking piano to play on.

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Fortified by sleep, fun, and fresh air, we piled back into the car for our drive to St. Louis.  The older my kids get the more I enjoy traveling with them.  The “getting there” is indeed a key part of the vacation, full of both the planned and the unexpected.

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Meet Me in St. Louis

Meet Me in St. Louis

After two incredibly intense weeks, our family was more than ready for a spring break getaway.  By some small miracle we finally managed to get the car packed and be on our way to visit my family in St. Louis.  What did we do when we got there?  Well, we…

…saw a boat push barges through the Melvin Price Lock.

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…checked out a new “Myseum” close to home base.

…spent fun times playing with my cousin’s daughter Katherine.

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…rode two ferries.

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…enjoyed both home cooked meals and dinners out.

…spent a full day climbing, crawling, exploring, and marveling at the City Museum.

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…ate fish while watching fish at the Finn Inn.

…learned about Illinois and Missouri rivers at the National Great Rivers Museum.

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…assembled a jigsaw puzzle.

…had lots of interesting conversations.

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…played lots of skee ball and enjoyed a non-crowded evening at Chuck E. Cheese’s.

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…enjoyed some time with two different sets of aunts and uncles.

…helped with a few small tasks around the house.

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…caught up with several of my cousins.

…experienced the West County Computer Club and lunch out with my grandfather.

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…took the never-missed visit to Laumeier Sculpture Park.

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…saw hundreds of blue morpho butterflies and rode the carousel at Faust Park.

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…visited the art museum.

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…tailed the kids and their buddy Katherine through the Magic House children’s museum.

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…turned off our cell phones and focused on the people we were with.

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Thanks goes to everyone who gave us such a great getaway, and particular gratitude goes to our special hosts.  A visit to St. Louis is always a special time for us!

Houston 3

Houston 3

The final segment in my Houston postings (now that we’ve been back nearly two weeks!) is for the time we spent with our good friends.  We enjoyed…

…playing in fountains at a nearby park and at the Woodlands Waterway.

…walking along the waterway in the day and at night.

…a delicious authentic Cajun crawfish dinner, heads and claws and all!!

…a hostess kind enough to make grilled cheese for my children who were highly skeptical of the crawfish.

…several chances to play at the park.

…frozen yogurt with yummy toppings, twice!

…sweet Calvin willing to share his toys and his home with two big noisy kids.

…Nathan embracing his “big brother” role, taking great delight in figuring out how to play with Calvin and make him laugh.

…astronomy lessons for my son from the best science teacher around.

…checking out the planets with the telescope.

…time for the adults to talk together, eat together, play games, and catch up on our friendship.

…a chance to babysit for a while and to hear good news about upcoming baby #2.

…a trip to the Houston zoo where the highlights were two baby elephants playing in the pool, eating our picnic in a warm rain shower, and seeing the sea turtle at the end.

Of course there are other things that I am forgetting at the moment, but I figured since I finally finished unpacking it was long past time to get this posted!!  Once more, thanks to all our gracious Houston hosts.  We’ll be back…

Houston 2

Houston 2

The first half of our Houston vacation was spent with my sister and her family.  I have missed her, and it was great to see all the cool things she has done with her house as well as spend time with my nephews.  They are great boys!

I was having too much fun to take pictures of everything, so the majority of these photos are from the day we spent at the beach in Galveston.  I’ll just intersperse random photos with my list of good times we had…

…meeting Ben, the backyard turtle, and a highlight of the kids’ visit

…Kaye’s very thoughtful preparations with a special space for each of my kids–presents and even new coordinating sheets and blankets to make their beds cozy!  (Nope, I didn’t get forgotten either–she is very thoughtful!)

…lots of backyard “soccer” games in spite of the mosquitos

…our glorious day at the beach with kids playing together, daddies venturing way out into the water, a slightly sandy lunch, surf, sand, shells, sunscreen, silliness–sublime!

…dinner out for just the grown ups at a cozy local Italian place with live music and a yummy bacon salad prepared tableside, followed by dessert at a cute coffee shop.

…worshipping together on Sunday morning, rejoicing in our kids singing beside us and in hearing the familiar voice of our pastor from growing up in Idaho, now leading this church in TX.

…my husband being silly with my brother-in-law, laughing with my sister–I loved the company!

…helping Kaye get ready for her fabulous dinner party

..the dinner party itself–a rainbow theme with specially made decorations, rainbow party gifts for each guest, even rainbow sherbet in chocolate bowls for dessert!  The party also featured one more celebration of Katya’s birthday, delicious dinner, our old pastor and his wife and old family friends as guests, and talking and laughing until late.

…one last outing to the botanic gardens before it was time to say goodbye.

Surely I’m missing a few things, but that seems like a pretty long list!  Our whole family is grateful for the warm hospitality we received, the good memories we shared, and the time to be together with loved ones.

Houston 1

Houston 1

Back from our spring break trip to Houston and a busy Easter week, with lots of photos to share!  Today’s post–THE DRIVE.

We drove to Houston for spring break to visit my sister’s family and some very close friends. I was a bit skeptical about the huge car ride, but we knew we had to give it a try and see if it can be done.  The good news–it can!!  The even better news–we can do it in one REALLY long day if we want to, or break it up into 2 pretty easy days.  Hooray for more trips to Texas!

A few things that made our trip enjoyable…

…my bulging backpack with WAY too many things to do.  I only used about 20 of my ideas on the way there, and probably another 30 or so on the way back, with 25 more left for our next car trip.

…plenty of fun snacks and food stops.

…Adventures in Odyssey on CD from the library.

…a new car stereo to play our CDs, books on CD, and even Than’s iTouch.  It can also charge our phones, a handy bonus.

…kids who are older and can interact well with each other.

…lots of new country to see from the window.

We spent the night at a hotel in Amarillo (hamburgers and a banana split for dinner, waffles in the shape of TX at the hotel breakfast bar!) and arrived at my sister’s around 4:00 the next day.  On the way home, we left super early and were back to Denver by 7:30!  Phew!