Road Trip Planning for Young Families

We've taken a lot of roadtrips with our kids. Norah's not even two yet and has already visited 14 states! Now, a lot of our travel is to visit family. I probably wouldn't be doing these long long drives with littles just for fun but both sets of grandparents and all of our siblings live more than 14 hours away by car (One set of grandparents does have a second home in a city just 4 hours away now which has already come in handy though!). So family is a big draw for us to travel but its also taken some of the fear away. We have to see the grandparents so we drive 16 hrs. But once you've done that with kids age 1, 4 and 6, driving several hours away for a weekend suddenly doesn't seem to bad at all. In fact, I didn't really even plan any extra entertainment for the kids until that morning because a trip of "just" 4 hours seemed so short! But I have learned thing or two.

Getting There: 

Don't overcomplicate entertainment

.Our first really long (I consider anything over 10 hours long) was this trip to North Carolina three years ago. Jonah was one and a half and Lucy has just turned 4.  I scoured Pinterest for fun printouts and made magnet toys and got them each a magnetic cookie sheet to go over their lap. Big waste of time. Pieces got lost sheets got tipped and they ended up just coloring most of the time. I know some people love goodie bags to hand out at certain times or having a reward system and we might try something like that when kids are older but right now, I keep entertainment choices limited:

- One small toy or set of toys each. (Lucy brought her Lottie Doll, Jonah a ziploc bag of superheroes. Norah was supposed to have her baby doll but I forgot it and this was probably part of her bedtime issues on that trip. She was sooo happy to come home and find her!)

- One coloring book each, a stack of white paper and a bag of colored pencils to share.  I like colored pencils because they don't dry out although they can need sharpening. I haven't had too much trouble with crayons melting but Jonah does like to sit and peel them leaving teeny tiny pieces of paper all over the van. I guess it keeps him busy - but colored pencils are nice. I've heard good things about these but haven't even felt inconvenienced enough by sharpening to buy them. For Norah, I give her one coloring sheet at a time on a clip board and one crayon.

- A couple picture books for each bigger kid and a stack of board books for the baby/toddler.

- AUDIOBOOKS! Plus maybe a fun music cd. Before our big trip to North Dakota this year, we bought the kids the full Radio Theatre Chronicles of Narnia set which is a fantastic deal and really well done. But we also utilize the library and librovox/podcasts (like sparkle stories) for other fun audio stories.

- TV. I try to strike a middle ground when it comes to shows. Before we leave, I'll download a few Netflix episodes onto our kindle fire but those are kept for the nighttime part of the trip or baby emergencies. The kid's don't even ask about this normally because they know the answer will be not yet.

Be Cozy 

Dress kids comfortable. Make sure shoes are easy to get on and off. Mine always want to take them off as soon as possible and we often need to get them back on quickly because we have to get to a potty ASAP! Our kids also bring the same blanket they sleep with at night and one lovey. We've done pillows at times but those seem more hassle than they are worth. Tidy up the car every night so they have a general space about them and can find their stuff. It's never what I want to do when we finally get to our hotel but I'm always glad the next day that one super hero they really really have to have 20 seconds after we've gotta on the highway is no longer stuck in a crack between the seats. Have a trash bag handy. We have a plastic cereal box with plastic bags in it as an all the time trash container but more importantly -  make sure it gets used and make the kids help you! They've been sitting all day, stretching and crawling around the van floor finding tiny pieces of trash is good for them! I've also started keeping a beach towel. It's nice for when we have to pull over and Jonah needs to pee but wants privacy. I'm the only one in our family that gets motion sick (this might be changing now that Lucy is in the back of the minivan. I hope not) and we haven't had any car puking since Lucy was a baby (she used to hate the car and would start throwing up if we didn't take her out within 5 minutes of her starting to cry. Those were not big roadtrip times for us) but its nice to know its there if we need it.

Creative Timing:

When we are driving, we either take a "just get there fast" approach which probably involves driving at night, or we take a slow and steady approach. If we drive at night, either one big overnight trip to get somewhere fast or after taking a long break and doing a big stretch in the evening to make a little more progress, I generally feed kids dinner then put pj's on and let them watch a show or two while I cross my fingers hoping Norah falls asleep. Once she's out, I switch kids over to an audiobook and they normally fall asleep pretty quickly since that's how they fall asleep at home normally. I'll be honest, this kills the adults. So I don't think we'd ever attempt it if we need to be at a wedding or theme park or anything that requires us to be alert alive the next day. But if we're going to the grandparents farm and they'll be around so we can each grab a nap, its nice to just get there.

They gotta eat:

Pack a lunch: We almost always eat lunch in the car if we are on the road. If we are stopped, its to see a sight or let the kids run around. I don't want to finally let them out of the car only to have them then sit down to eat. Plus, if we can keep lunch similar to what they eat at home and hotel breakfasts somewhat similar, then we can eat out for dinner without wreaking too much havoc on there little systems - and the attitudes attached to those systems. Even this last trip which kinda snuck up on me and I didn't have enough stuff, I just ran into an Aldi near our hotel and bought some lunch supplies. Two days of supplies was probably half of what one trip through the drive through would be even when I threw it some "splurges" for our family like veggie straws and a chocolate bar for us adults to secretly indulge in (chocolate always helps road trips seem to go smoother!)

I really love these containers. I can pack everything for one kid all together at home or in the hotel room and just pass it back when its time to eat. That way I'm only spending 50% of time straining my neck searching for and handing a kid something instead of 95% of my time. I know there are lots of really cool bento boxes out there but these are cheap, lightweight and get the job done.  And I don't have kids handing my half eaten apples or sandwich crusts when they are done, they just put the lid back on and I deal with it later. They are also great for happy meals. Yes, my kids do occasionally get happy meals - just not for lunch. Typical we eat fast food for our last meal of the trip and its often the dinner time meal right before we reach home. Which is sad because that's often a Sunday which means no Chick-fil-A.

Think Global:

Obviously this will depend on how picky your eaters are but we also enjoy eating ethnic foods. We've gone with kids to everything from Ethiopian restaurants to Greek. This last trip we found a great Indian place. Honestly, Norah was highly skeptical but the big kids partook and Jonah especially loved it and it was all fairly healthy - lamb, chicken, some veggies and whole wheat flat bread. When we go to too many casual diners or American style places, I look back and realize they kids have eaten chicken strips for three dinners in a row and the only vegetables they've had were potatoes and ketchup. I do try and bring along some extra lunch meat and fruit in case someone really doesn't like their choice - or more likely, decides at bedtime that they probably should have eaten a bit more and they are just soo soo hungry and they really need a granola/lara bar. I can thwart those attempts and say "well, here's some lunch meat for you."

Go Early 

We also try to eat on the early side. We do at home too but with wait times and long days/short naps and the need to sit down and be polite, this becomes even more important. The Indian place I mentioned opened at 5pm for dinner so guess who was waiting in the parking lot at 4:55. Yes, we did. But we got in and served right away and no melt downs were had. Depending on ages/naptimes, once we are at our destination, we might switch our lunch and dinner and eat out for lunch and have sandwiches for dinner or if we're at a house like our rental in North Carolina, we bought nicer food to cook at home (lots of seafood, yum!) then just went out for ice cream once or twice. I know cooking on vacation may not seem like fun but I've just realized its often less stressful than trying to keep kids in there seats when their schedule has been off and they are wired up after a big long day.

The Fun Stuff:

Be Realistic

 Most of the time, it's a mix, leaning heavily on the slow and steady. Unless we are doing the overnight thing, we really search out stuff to do. We like all the little random stops you find in America. Sometimes you get a dud but you never know and we've found some really neat places by being willing to take a chance on random. When we go slow and steady, we normally plan to stop every two to three hours. I'm sure that will get longer as kids get older but for now, that's our limit. And when I stay stop, I mean, STOP. We don't do many quick gas station/bathroom breaks and then jump back in car (unless someone has to go potty 20 minutes after we left our last stop!) Our best section of driving is normally the first one in the morning so I try to push us the full three hours. Same thing at naptime. I do not like to wake a sleeping baby or toddler! So sometimes I'll have two or three little stops that we can choose from depending on if someone is asleep and we can keep going a bit more versus we need to stop on the early side.

If we are staying someplace for a few days, we generally only do one big thing a day. It may be tempting to pack our days full but that doesn't end well for us. That doesn't mean we just sit around in the hotel all day but we have smaller, more flexible activities on our list.  In Springfield we were there three days. Our big activities were Laura Ingalls Homestead, Children's Museum and a minor league baseball game. So we did one each day. Then we went putt-putting and visited Bass Pro Shop and the giant fork and went out to eat to fill in the rest of the time, mostly the afternoon. For a 5 year old, the mini-golf with it's paper mache dinosaur is practically as glamorous as the Eiffel tower.  And it's much easier to walk away from that or a free trip to visit the turtles at a store when kids have reached their limit than a expensive adventure. So what if you only do 8 or the 18 holes, you can stop when everyone is having fun!

The pool and movies are our extra filler activities. We always get a hotel with a pool. You can't keep a kid contained in a hotel room for long. When Norah needs a nap but the big kid's don't, Dad takes them swimming and I get a bit of quiet time to re-pack suitcases or clean lunch boxes. We've even taken kids first thing in morning before driving to use up a bit of energy.

 We are normally sticklers about bedtime but if Jonah isn't very tired, he will bug Lucy when they share a bed. And Norah doesn't fall asleep well in hotel at all these days so this trip we tried watching a movie and letting them stay up later than normal and it seemed to work. The first night Lucy even asked to go to bed. But everyone has to be all ready for bed and tucked in so when I turn the show off, they don't have to move. So, just be flexible and try different things. That said, really do try and let the napping kids get at least a small nap. Even just in the car or on someone's back or in the stroller. A missed nap is a terrible thing.

Be Bold 

This may sound like the opposite of realistic but it's really not. My mama mantra when we go on trips is "We're building memories and having fun!" because I so easily fall into the trap of just containing the chaos and surviving. If I just wanted to survive the easiest way I could, I wouldn't go on road trips! But that's no fun! Yes, there will be meltdowns. Yes, kid's won't eat as well and sleep as well, but they'll survive, especially if they eat and sleep well the other 95% of the time.

Same with decisions. We've got our basically road trip plan but sometimes, we chuck it and say "well, let's try this!" Or we generally go to kid friendly places but if I really want to see this place but it's not really aimed at kids, we'll just do a shortened version. And sometimes, we're really crazy and pack a day full because that's the only way it will work. We know we'll pay for it later but we grin and bear it. And by "it" I mean the crying fussing children we are carrying out of the building.

One of two crying children we carried out of that museum . We survived. 

But one sandwich and a nap later and all is well again. And hopefully we got some cute pictures and fun memories before the tears came. Be bold! Make Memories!


Filling up the minivan...

First of all, no, I'm not pregnant. I just had to get that out of the way.

BUT...we are trying to fill our home up a bit more. Today we did the last walk-through and homestudy visit in the licensing process to become foster parents! Our fingers have been printed, our backgrounds checked and we have been official declared licensed to parent.

It will take day or so for the paperwork to go through their system and then we'll be open for placements. We're really excited to see how God uses us in the next few months/years.

We've always wanted to adopt and talked about it even before we were engaged so after my really rough pregnancy with Norah, it just seemed like that would be the natural plan for any additional kids. We looked at domestic, we looked at international and we thought we had an idea of where God was leading us but no decisions were really made and we weren't planning on beginning anything until Norah turned two anyway so we had time. The only thing I remember saying to a friend was that I really had no interest in the foster care system....why don't we Christians learn not to think things like that?! It wasn't very long later that God clearly called us to this path. And no, Norah is not two yet. Oh, the plans we make.

Feel free to ask any questions. We're new to this all so I don't know if I'll have the answers but we've been blessed to know a few families that are/have been foster families and their openness about the process was one of the ways God led us to this place and I've love for someone else to say that about our family down the road. It's quickly becoming a passion of mine and I love to talk about my passions, especially when it comes to processing emotions. And there are already so many emotions here. Because whatever excitement I feel is tempered by the idea that it comes from a place of hurt and loss too. Foster care is messy!

That said, I still can only tell our side of the story. So please don't get hurt if you ask a question and I flat out say "sorry, I can't talk about that." But at least until we get a placement, our story is the only story. And it's not very long! A few other questions you might have:

Why Foster?
Well, because this talks about our area. As does this article. It's bad. And as crazy as our life can get with the little people we have already, this is something we can do and I think we can do it pretty well. And I memorized James a few years ago so I can't even pretend that I'm not aware of James 1:27. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their afflication, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. Plus, I really love babies.  

Are you gonna adopt any? The goal of fostering is reunification so I'm going to be trying to love each child in our home with 100% of my heart while they are here, while also wanting them to return home. I don't say that lightly. This will not be easy but its what we are signing up for. That said, we do want to be available as a permanent loving home through adoption if reunification isn't deemed possible. This is often called foster to adopt but we've been asked not to use that term, so we won't be. And if adoption does become an option, we have no idea of when that might be. Maybe placement #1, maybe placement #10.

When will you get a placement? We don't know! We hope sometime in the summer months. We're anxious to start loving on some babies. But I'm trying to trust that God will put the children in our home that he wants there in his timing.

What ages/sexes/races/etc will you take? As far as age, we're asking to keep birth order so under Norah's age. We've heard the family dynamics of that are easier so we want our bio kids to keep their place in the line even if other members of our household change. In terms of other aspects, we're open to a lot so we'll just have to see what phone calls we get.

Will your posts be full of blurry faces now? Maybe? The law has recently changed so we don't necessarily have to blur out faces but we do need to make sure everyone's privacy is protected so I'm just not sure how that will play out. But if you see any unfamiliar faces pop up in family pictures of us at the zoo or hiking, please just make a good guess and don't ask who it is. Because I won't be able to answer. And if you are local and happen to meet me in the grocery store, I'll probably just introduce any newbie by their first name and leave it at that.

As you can tell, even my hypothetical questions don't have clear cut answers. But part of me thinks that's a good thing. If God had told me what I'll I'd be facing over the last 10 years (or frankly, even the last month!), I'd be terrified and think I couldn't do it. But I could and I did. We don't know what road God has before us. But we know He goes before us and will lead us where he wants us to be.


There's an App for that...3 things that make my life easier

Oh my goodness, guys. Why do I fight technology so much when it comes to planning?! There must be some little Wendell Berry living in my soul fighting against the technology that exists to make my life easier because I fight and I fight and then I try something and bam - my life is changed and I wonder why I waited so long. Because I've got three smallish kids and I homeschool and Norah just slept through the night for the first time (like a real sleep through the night, waking up at 7am sleeping through the night!). I'm tired. My brain is mush. And if there is something I can do to keep things running smoothly, well, I do not need to be fighting it.

YNAB - Y'all should know I love YNAB like crazy. I wrote all about it here just because I wanted to share it with y'all. So when they announced an affiliate program, I knew I could do that and feel good about it. Because affiliate or not, I love to talk to people about YNAB. I also love my new (to us) minivan that YNAB helped me save for and I love not having student loan payments anymore. Also, I've had to use their customer support (because of a silly error on my part) and I was very happy with the quick response I got and the fact that they didn't laugh at the silly error that was messing me up. (I'd share what it was but honestly, I'm too embarrassed. It was a blonde moment on my part).

Plan to Eat - This one is newer to me but so far, I'm in love. I have been struggling with meal planning lately. I'm done a weekly meal plan every week for the past 10 years so you'd think I'd be better at it! But far too often lately I'd just sit and stare at the blank paper, feeling uninspired. I also have a bad habit of writing my grocery list on the same piece of paper as my menu but then losing (ahem, recycling) the list after I finish shopping and there is no way I can rely on my memory these day.

Craig had encouraged me to look into some meal planning services several times but I didn't like the idea of someone else picking out what we'd fix. With fluctuating dietary needs and kid's taste (mine aren't picky in the traditional sense but they have weird tastes. Like Lucy doesn't like pasta and they both love fish and soup. Jonah's also decided he no longer likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which seems like a cruel trick but that's a different story), I felt like I'd be making too many adjustments for it to be worth it. So I brushed off the idea.

But a little while ago, I stumbled upon Plan to Eat and after dismissing in 2-3 times earlier, I actually stopped and looked at it. Plan to Eat is different. I use my meals, either imputing them manual or using their url input feature to get them easily from websites and then I can plug them easily into the calendar and it makes my shopping list for me. I did the free 30 day trial and wow, game changer! I can also tag them with things standard tags (crock-pot, quick, vegetarian,etc) but I can make my own. The kids are doing an cooking class this semester so when I find a recipe that they can do most of themselves, I can tag it.

Make your own pasta salad night. Jonah peeled the veggies and cut the mozzarella (knife) and pepperoni (scissors), Lucy made the Italian dressing and cut up the peppers and carrots. All I did was cook some pasta and opened a can of beans. They picked what they wanted and we shook it all up - and then they actually ate it! Even the bell peppers! (But no, Lucy didn't eat her pasta. I'd sigh but she ate her beans and cheese and veggies so it was still a win)

I'm also starting up a sourdough starter so I've saved a few recipes and tagged them with sourdough. I'll be honestly, I've never succeeded in my sourdough attempts in the past so that may be unreasonable ambitious of me but its growing really well so far and I'm just days away from being able to bake with it!

Baby Sourdough. So cute! Okay, not really. But bubbly - which is even better!

 I'm excited about meal planning now. It also includes my prep automatically on the calendar so no more scrambling to come up with a different dinner because I forgot to take the meat out to thaw or soak the beans. I think one of my favorite features is the freezer list though. It tracks what I put in the freezer! I love to make doubles of meals and stash them away but too often I forget what I have and its not exactly easy to dig through my deep freezer in the basement to look around when I've also got 1/4 of a cow in there.  Basically, I'm in love. I'm back to spending my time in the kitchen cooking and baking, which I love, instead of  deciding what to feed all these people that don't want to starve, which I don't love. at all. So I'm paying for it now and I've signed up to be an affiliate for that as well. It's only a couple of bucks a month and for me, it's definitely worth it.

Cozi - Okay, this one doesn't cost anything (for the basic one which is what I use) and I'm not an affiliate. I just like it. Cozi is an app that you share with someone. It has a shared calendar, to-do list and groceries list. We only use the shared grocery list although as the kid's get older and involved in more things, I can see using the shared calendar. It makes it so easy for me to let Craig know what he needs to bring home. Gone are the days of my texting him over the day with "can you get this" ...oh, and this...but nevermind about that." We can also both add to our running Costco and Home Depot lists so whenever someone gets there, we get it all. Or most of it all. You still have to remember to put things ON the list which has occasionally been an issue with me and apparently neither Craig not Cozi is a mind reader. But it does help.

I got the baby pool at Target but didn't get the sippy cups (the take and toss straw cups which they were out of. I rarely do the toss part but Norah's become a straw bitter and we use them twice daily for Jonah's meds so I really need enough.) I forgot to check it off but I actually did get the manly cough drops (as opposed to the breastfeeding safe "mama cough drops" :-)

Now, there are some areas I just can't hand over to a program. Like, as I said, my calendar. I've tried. I have. But nope, doesn't work for me. I need to write it down. And my to-do list. Clicking a box or tasks completed does not give me the same thrill as using a pen and marking in complete. So for that stuff, I love my bullet journal, I love my bullet journal. So much love for one little notebook.
It basically contains my mind and I feel lost and confused without it. And I actually lose it less frequently than my phone so its still a good thing all that info isn't on my phone. So, I won't ever be going all digital with my planning and organization but I'm learning to try. I attempted Evernote last year but gave up on it. It just wasn't my style. But I've been hearing good things about Trello from some homeschool moms and I'm not sure if it is different enough that it might be worth spending some time on. Hmm...

What about you? And tried and true technological ways to make my mama life easier you want to share?

Both the ynab and plan to eat links are affiliate links. I can earn a discount on my plans if you use them but both programs are ones I pay for because I think they are well worth the cost.  


Small Town Parade

I just love a small town parade. This one is a favorite of our kids. I love how we can get there 10 minutes before it starts and still find a great spot for our chairs within easy walking distance from our car. At first Norah was kinda confused but it didn't take long before she had the candy picking up drill down flat. I will admit that yesterday I let the kids pick 10 pieces and then we got rid of the rest. But that's still plenty.

Hope you had great 4th of July as well!


Classics Challenge - The Good Earth

I'm having a hard time determining how much I liked this book. I definitely didn't hate it and I would recommend it. I loved the simplistic style of writing and how it seemed to add to the world the author was creating. It's not flowery, which I generally dislike in a book, but it paints a vivid picture. I felt like I was in the world she created. I could feel the hot dusty path our main character, Wang Lung, took when times were rough and I could hear his content sighs as he took as step back and looked at his rich fields when they weren't. Not just of the land and the physical surroundings. The book follows Wang Lung's life over a period of many many years without feeling draggy and it's interesting to see where his choices take him. You get an interesting view of the the whole culture and choices.

Which might actually be part of the problem. I felt like I understood that world - but I didn't really. I HATED some of the main character's choices and try as I might to put myself in his shoes, I just couldn't. So my feelings for this book seemed to go up and down as Wang Lung's decision making ability did as well. But I couldn't hate him. He was a well developed character with many flaws but enough virtue that kept you hoping in him. There are several other great characters in the book but I feel like it would be too spoilery to mention them as you don't know always who will play a large role in his life when you meet them. It's part of a trilogy and I do own the whole thing so I might read the rest down the road. For now, I'm still pondering my feelings. Which is probably a sign that it's a good book.

The Good Earth is my Back to the Classics Award-Winning Classic. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. 


Mini-Roadtrip Time!

We got back this weekend from a short but fun-filled adventure to Springfield, MO area. It's not Paris or Rome but I like to think of these short little roadtrips as not only fun now, but preparing out kids for future travels. If they can learn to have fun exploring and enjoying sights in small towns then I know we'll have fun adventures as they grow can tackle bigger and better trips as they grow up. Travel is something that is important to both Craig and I so even thought it is a bit exhausting at this stage of parenting, I know its worth it. 

First stop was yet another Little House on the Prairie spot - the Ingalls homestead. We toured the museum and then the house that Laura and Almanzo built. It was a bit wet and the kids have apparently been listening to too much Wizard of Oz because a little bit of rain seemed to cause panic but once under the eaves, their spirits brightened. And luckily this was our only bit of rain. The forecast the week before kept changing and we had seen reports ranging from sunny and weekend to rainy all weekend but it ended up being lovely except for these two hours.

We couldn't take pictures inside but I enjoyed it. I love seeing houses from different historical times so I would have enjoyed it no matter who lived there but of course, its having been Laura's added a special charm. And now Lucy wants to re-read the books again!

The homestead was a bit out of town but we got there fairly early so decided to swing by the World's Largest Fork in case it decided to rain later that weekend and we wouldn't have good opportunity again. It's pretty much just a giant fork but it does make for a good photo op...except that it is was really sunny by then and the kid's refused to put their hands down. 

The next day was the Children's museum. It didn't rain and in fact was a gorgeous day. For about 3 seconds I was sad about being inside but then we got there and realized that it was practically empty! 

No children or babies were harmed by sleeping on the nails. 

Norah petting a hissing cockroach. I passed on that activity.

Never been used toilet. Clean water. Still couldn't make myself do it. But I think I faked it well for the photo. 

And about 2 minutes after that picture was taken, this one was. Tantrums - they happen. In fact, we had a great time at the museum but left with one crying child on my back and one screaming child in Craig's arm. Fun times!

Time for lunch and a nap. While the toddler slept, the big kids swam!

All rested and feeling calmer, we headed out again to go mini-golfing. The kids had never been and had sooo many questions on the way (will it be hard? I don't understand? How do I know where I'm hitting it? What if I lose the ball? Whose team am I on? Is our family a team and the other people will lose?) that I finally had to tell them we'd just have to wait and see and it wouldn't be that hard. 

Jonah and Lucy did pretty well. Jonah cheated a bit without realizing it (He did quite a bit of ball pushing and sometimes resorted to his feet) and Lucy vacillated between hitting it way too hard or barely touching it. She also got attacked by the windmill but her head survived. Norah was happy just to carry around her putter and ball and sometimes put her ball in the hole and take it out again. This was perfect! Until she lost her ball and insisted on using mine. So Craig and I shared. Which doesn't really work except by the second or third shot of each hole, the kids had given up on waiting and just went at the same time so one parent would quickly finished and hand off to the other. It was a bit chaotic but it worked. Funnily enough, this was probably the most crowded activity of the weekend but it was an amazingly nice afternoon. It might have been easier if we didn't have another group right behind us but we'll definitely give it another go sometime. 

The next day was the baseball game but that wasn't until the afternoon so we spent the morning exploring the flagship Bass Pro Shop. This place is immense - turtle pond, several large aquariums, two alligators and two mini ponds with ducks. Plus lots of stuffed ones to view as well. I didn't take my nice camera (because it's a store! Who takes a nice camera to a store!) but I managed to get a few decent cell pictures. I wish the lighting was better. 

A picture with daddy and the bear. 

Then they wanted a picture with the beaver. So we took a picture - with the automatic door button. 

Norah did a lot of pointing in this place. 

We got the kids their souvenir's here. $3 hats because we realized they might need some at the baseball game and the price was right. So before we left, they insisted on modeling them for me. 

Then more swimming. The kids had just finished their first week of swimming lessons were excited to show their daddy what they learned but poor Norah, my water loving baby, had been sitting by the edge of the pool all week and finally was able to get in one. She had a blast! I think if we let her just jump in on repeat she would have gone for hours. She also loves to have cups of water poured over her head and face in the bathtub and as soon as she blinks the water away, asks for more. This is not the norm in our house but I like it! (Video here. I can't figure out how to embed it)

Finally some baseball! This is what Craig had been waiting for! I still haven't been to a St. Louis Cardinal's baseball game (ever. I know. I know. I'm a bad St. Lousian) but at least I got to see a minor league game this year and cheer for "The Cardinals" one way or another.  Or maybe I should say "part of a game".  We only made it through three innings. It was pretty hot and sunny and kid's interest didn't keep up once the food has been consumed. Craig tried to lure them to continue with the promise of running the bases afterward but it wasn't enough. But we did have fun for those few innings. And we wore them out enough that Norah took a nice long nap on the way home! And thus ended our mini-roadtrip to Springfield, MO. Good times were had by all.