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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.

St. Louis Summer Part 2

St. Louis Summer Part 2

And now, the conclusion of our St. Louis story.  (How did you ever manage to wait in suspense this long?!!)

Part of the fun of visiting my grandparents is that there are always new things to do, mixed in with the familiar favorite activities.  Here were some new adventures from this visit:

Sharing our Senegal stories with the extended family–we made our best approximation of our favorite Senegalese meal and served it on the grass outside.  Aunts, uncles, and cousins participated with good spirits!

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A visit to the CityPark sculpture garden in downtown St. Louis–This was a fairly new outdoor sculpture park and it was fun to have my cousin’s daughter along for the adventure.  There were fountains for splashing, a sculpture that involved a video screen where you could see yourself, and lots of interesting art to explore and experience.

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There was a new puzzle to assemble, new flowers to plant, a new tea house to enjoy, and plenty of new stories to tell and conversations to share.  I am so grateful that we have a hospitable family that welcomes us, entertains us, and adds to our rich store of memories together.

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Summer Starts in St. Louis

Summer Starts in St. Louis

“Take me to St. Louey, Louey, Take me to the fair!”  (Now, if you know that song, keep humming while you read.  It will add to the effect, I’m sure.)

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Our first big trip of the summer started as soon as school let out.  We found ourselves on the road for St. Louis!  Road trips have become easier as our kids grow up, and at this point we really just need new Adventures in Odyssey episodes, a few snacks, and the occasional pit stop.  Don’t worry, I still pack a big bag of new road trip ideas anyway–we just don’t use very many of them!

A good portion of our week with my grandparents is filled with activities we love, that we look forward to doing each time we visit.  (Stay tuned for a future post, part 2 of this one, with things that were new or different this time!)

I am so glad for the memory of my grandmother happily riding the carousel.  There is always a kid in there somewhere!

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A trip to the carousel generally goes with a trip to the Butterfly House, and this time was no exception.  I’ll save most of the butterfly pictures for future “Random Quotes” posts, but here is a little taste…

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And no visit to St. Louis is complete without a stop at the City Museum.  I stayed home to help with work around the house while Than and the kids enjoyed a fantastic day exploring this all-time-favorite place.  This year they even got to go on the roof and ride the Ferris Wheel up there, a special new experience.

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One final “traditional” highlight was a trip to the vast Missouri Botanic Gardens.  We were delighted to share our visit with my cousin’s wife and his daughter, who is just a year younger than Nathan.  Family time, a delicious lunch, and beautiful surroundings–what more do you need?

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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!

St. Louis City Museum

St. Louis City Museum

As promised, here is a post just about the St. Louis City Museum.  The museum is a large warehouse in the city that was purchased by a very creative artist/sculptor.  Using lots of items recycled from various buildings and industrial areas, the museum features an incredible arrangement of indoor and outdoor tunnels, slides, mazes, paths, and who knows what else!!  The more you look, the more you see.  We explored and played for 5 hours, visiting all 3 floors and the outdoor play structure.  There are also attractions on the roof, although those were closed for the season.  If you are anywhere near St. Louis, we highly recommend a visit!!

The outside of the museum–closed the first time we tried to visit, but definitely worth the return trip

Nathan dove in with enthusiasm, climbing and sliding and exploring almost as fast as Than could go!

Katya was a bit more reluctant at many points, but was usually persuaded to go for it anyway.

Sitting on the tip of the world’s longest pencil

Racing down a concrete bowl at the indoor “skate park”

Crawling through the miniature railroad–the only one I’ve ever seen that has a tornado with a house being lifted up into the air!

The architectural hall, a slower-paced part of the museum with beautiful things salvaged from the insides and outsides of various St. Louis buildings

Braving one of the outdoor climbing tunnels

Now do you see why bravery was required?  That tunnel is more than three stories above the ground!

the school bus on the roof, accessible in the summer time

Katya driving one of the outdoor airplanes

There’s that airplane–check out the cherry picker basket from the fire truck on the right side of the picture, and the steep red slide in the background.  Yep, we went on it all!

The biggest ball pit ever–no little tiny balls here!

A human hamster wheel, outside the mirrored maze that is reachable through the huge bank vault door

 

Check out their website for even more photos, panoramic views, and pictures of the spots I didn’t mention–the undersea mosaics, the 10 story slide, the caverns, the art room, the indoor circus performers–so much more!!  Guess you better plan a visit soon!!

 

St. Louis at Thanksgiving

St. Louis at Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving we had the pleasure of spending the week in St. Louis with my grandparents (who live there) and my dad (who was visiting too!)  There are tons and tons of photos, so scroll quickly if you wish through some of the highlights… Got to the airport early, so there was no rushing around and plenty of time to ride the train all the way to the end of the line and then back to our terminal.  Uneventful flight and a warm welcome from our taxi service! First day there we headed straight for the Arch, arriving early to beat the crowds and enjoy this St. Louis landmark.  Nathan was particularly excited, having just studied pioneers and the Oregon Trail in school.

The view from the top, so much to look at.  We took our time, then headed down fast when a noisy school group filled up the space!  The museum at the bottom is very well put together and had something to interest everyone, even in a group as varied as ours.

After lunch (and some re-planning) we ended up at the wild bird sanctuary, a funny little gem hidden away near Bonzo and Pappy’s house.  We saw 11 bald eagles and lots of other hawks, owls, and even an armadillo–all animals rescued by or dropped off at the shelter, unable to survive in the wild.

Since our host’s kitchen was in mid remodel, we enjoyed a wide variety of meals out during our visit–Chinese, Mexican, Italian, and some very tasty sandwich shops.  Thanksgiving was at my aunt and uncle’s house, a well organized and delicious feast for our talkative and interesting family.  The best part for the kids was my aunt’s well-appointed basement–as a former kindergarten teacher, she has it set up for just about any kind of creative play a kid could want!  We were grateful for all the generous hospitality we were shown during our visit.

Other highlights included riding on the carousel at Faust Park (reports are mixed on whose horse won the race), exploring the drainage ditch behind Bonzo and Pappy’s house, playing with their assortment of antique toys, washing dishes in the bathroom sink, baking the first ever pie in the new oven, and times for the kids to play with my cousin’s daughter while the grown ups got to talk.

The City Museum was probably the most memorable stop on our trip, but it deserves its own post so you’ll have to visit back for that one!

Our final stop before heading home was a morning at the Botanic Gardens to enjoy their holiday flower show complete with model trains.  A power outage made the visit even more exciting, but we eventually got to see everything working, vote on our favorite wreaths from the wreath display, and enjoy lunch at the garden restaurant.

After a busy week of traveling, sight-seeing, conversing, playing, and catching up with family it was finally time to head for home.   Our plane ended up being delayed for a few hours, but fortunately a creative daddy and a camera made for some good airport amusement–what else to do, but play “Photograph the Dog” all over the terminal?!!

We were welcomed back to Denver by our other faithful taxi service, enjoyed a late lunch together, and then gladly ended up at home with tired children and lots of good memories.

We are thankful for so many things, and for so many people who worked to make our trip smooth and successful, but we especially want to thank Bonzo and Pappy for their hospitality, their good ideas of things to do, and their care for each of us.  Don’t worry, we’ll come back!!

St. Louis

St. Louis

Someone's watching...

 

 

Pardon the very long post–it is the best I can do to convey our great week in St. Louis!  Here is an incomplete list of things we enjoyed during our visit…

Worshipping at Bonzo and Pappy’s church

Open house lunch that provided time to catch up with St. Louis family and friends

Overseeing the kids in the garden maze

Playing down at the “creek” with Daddy

British movie night (The Importance of Being Earnest)  

Time to play with cousin Katherine

Kids enjoying each other (and the gardens too!)

Fond memories staying in the house where I lived during college  

Beautiful orchids in a Mayan setting at the botanic gardens

Happy new friends

 

Roaming through the extensive outside of the gardens (no way to see everything!) enjoying daffodils, a field of crocus, blooming magnolia and forsythia, the maze, and lots of other adventures

Playing with “new” toys including a teaset I played with as a child and a Lite Brite that had Nathan quite interested

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Family time at the Laumier Sculpture Park, a perennial favorite for Than and I

Family face (is mom the booger?!!)

A quick stop at Krispy Kreme–can’t go to the sculpture park without it!

Admiring all the hard work my sister and brother-in-law did helping with bathroom, bedroom, and living room remodels

Nathan's magnetic creation, inspired by the sculpture park

An afternoon at the Magic House, a huge children’s museum that would have kept Nathan busy all day!

Katya playing at the Magic House

Ladies Day Out with fancy lunch and a matinee theater showing of the musical Beehive

Men and children taking in the Queeny Park playground and Dog Museum–guess who loved that?!!

Siblings experiencing art

A bus trip with Bonzo and Pappy’s friends featuring a tour of Jefferson Barracks and delicious Italian lunch

Time to talk with my cousins and meet a few new faces at the famous “Supper Club”

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Lots of treats, laughter, stories, and good care from my grandparents

What a group!