Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Showering Olivia

The major reason we went to Arizona was to help hostess a shower for my sister-in-law, Olivia.  She and my brother are having a sweet baby girl (named Whitney) very soon and we needed to help get her ready.  Her theme for the room is nautical so the shower was all about fish and sea life.  I have been honing my skills in the diaper cake arena (I even made one out of the new cloth diapers and inserts.  That was tough!)  So I was ready to undertake this challenge.  I think my little starfish cake is pretty cool!

Olivia looks precious!  She is so excited for Whitney's arrival!

She received some adorable clothes and a few useful things too.  Every baby needs something Elmo!

And every baby with any Wisconsin blood needs a Packers outfit.  Whitney is ready for football season!

It was a really fun afternoon celebrating Olivia and Whitney.  I enjoyed meeting Olivia's friends and showering her with lots of great baby items.  She's all ready for Whitney's  arrival!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Some More Arizona Fun

After the fire station, I decided to carry on the public servant theme by hitting the police museum.  I didn't know that the case that led to the Miranda rights came from Phoenix, but this museum had a little exhibit about it so we got in a little more school!
They let the kids wear police shirts while they walked through the museum.  Justin's might have been more like a dress.  But he liked it!

When Phoenix was just getting settled they didn't have a jail yet so this was their alternative: a jail rock.  You would get chained to the rock by the blacksmith for a couple of hours or a couple of days depending on your crime.  Drunk and disorderly was one of the main offenses.  And letting your chickens out to spook a horse.  Glad we don't have that one anymore...

There was a real police car for the kids to try out too.

And this three-wheeled motorcycle.

This was my favorite:  I am a bomb technician.  If you see me running, try to keep up.

We had a great time, just us and the boys.  Alaina went home to take a nap with Nana and Uncle Jon and Aunt Olivia.  I am not sure how well it's going to go over when we have to start taking the boys to girly places.  But for now, police and fire museums fit the bill!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Arizona Time

I had big plans to make sure we did some school stuff while on our trips.  My Wisconsin plans went well, but my AZ plans fell through so I had to come up with something quick to make up for it.  This is what I found and it was a big hit all around.  We went to the Hall of Flame Museum.  They have lots of old fire trucks and equipment.  It was amazing to see the vintage fire trucks that were pumped by hand.  That would have been exhausting.  And that was after you pulled the truck to the fire! 

This is absolutely beautiful!  Totally reminds me of Cinderella's carriage.  It was just a parade vehicle.  Yeah, I am not sure it would have survived any fires!

Fortunately they had some things the kids could touch and play with. 


The part that Travis found most fascinating was the live radio dispatch they were playing at the museum.  It was the actual dispatcher for the Phoenix area.  We learned the next day when we visited my fire fighter cousin that we could have been hearing his calls that he went out on.  Too cool!
The next day we went to see my cousin Carl at work.  He wasn't at his home station, it was an extra shift he picked up, but we still got to see him and play with the fire stuff.  That's all that really matters to the kids anyway!  Carl knows exactly what is coolest to all the kids:  The helmets and the hoses!
When Carl offered to let them spray the hose, Justin was first in line!  He was all about spraying the hose.  He did a good job with Carl helping.
Then it was Alaina's turn.  She really wanted to do it too!  She wants to be like her older brothers.  Big time...
Travis was a little reluctant to try at first, but then he really enjoyed it.

We had a great time learning about fire fighting so I can check the school box for today at least!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Trip to Wisconsin - Fourth Stop

After seeing my grandma the last stop was back in Madison, my hometown.  My mom lives there now but she's not really there very often.  She has a great roommate who actually enjoys having her home invaded by little children.  Sandy was great and she even let Justin climb all over her and Travis use her exercise machine.  A very good sport!  We also got to see Mommy Sharon and Daddy Jack.   The last time they saw my kids was right after Alaina was born when they accidentally had to fly through Houston and spend the night on their way home from Arizona.  The boys love Daddy Jack, and Mommy Sharon is the best second mother I could ever have hoped for.  This last stop was a quick one, but I got Greenbush apple fritters and Rocky Rococo's pizza so it was all good!

We ended up leaving a little before we planned because the flights didn't look good later.  We also changed where we flew out of so my mom and Randy had to make a quick trip to Milwaukee (not really so quick actually) to return our rental car.  Then we flew from Madison through Chicago back to Houston and spent the night before flying out to Arizona the next day.  My kids are such troopers!  They really did so good.  They slept on the way back from Chicago.  (Okay, Justin and Alaina did.  Travis thought he wasn't tired.  At least he didn't fall asleep on the way home and expect us to carry him up to bed.)

The Wisconsin vacation was one of the best family trips we have ever taken.  I admit we haven't taken very many, but I have to say that getting sleep really makes the trip a whole lot more fun!  I already have bigger plans for next summer, if Randy lets me go!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Trip to Wisconsin - Third Stop

Our third stop on our Wisconsin tour was at my Grandma's new apartment.  She moved in this February.  It is working out very well.  She mostly lives by herself and cooks are own breakfast and dinner and eats lunch in the dining room.  The situation is ideal: the apartments all face a large grassy area so they all have patios and past the grass is lots of trees.  It's very peaceful. 
The place also has a small studio apartment where guests can stay.  That's where we stayed and it was perfect!  I hate to say it out loud for fear of jinxing the situation, but the kids slept so good on this whole trip.  They were all in one room, the boys even were in the same bed, and we got a fairly decent night's sleep.  I admit, the second night I had to sleep with Justin and Travis went with Randy, but still I was able to make it though the day.  And it was Alaina who woke up early and the rest of the guys stayed asleep.  There is a great living area with a big TV so Alaina and I went and hung out there.  As the various workers started arriving for the day they probably wondered if they had come to the wrong place.  There aren't usually babies in the living area!
The sweetest part was watching all the residents watch our kids.  Justin usually trails behind when we are walking and one time I turned around to make sure he was still following and I saw every single eye in the room on him, paired with a big smile on each face.  Well, that just put a smile on my face.  I loved it!
I am not sure what prompted Alaina to go after my grandma's shoelaces, but she did.  Several times.  My grandma's only comment was, "At least she doesn't know how to tie them together yet!"  I suppose that is good thing.  We had to be on top of making sure they were retied every time she stood up!
Travis has turned into a big reader and this was his position of choice while he finished his book.  My mom bought him a few other books and he has discovered the Hardy Boys!

Mostly we just had a good time hanging out watching the kids play.  Grandma really likes having pictures in her mind of what the kids are like so I was glad to have the chance for her to see the boys and to meet Alaina.

We went to church at my grandma's church (without her).  I have gone there many times when we visited my grandparents growing up.  It's a small church (it's a small town) so everyone knows when a guest visits.  We haven't been there in 10 years but everyone welcomed us like family, especially after I said I was Laverne's granddaughter.  One woman even said that her mother lives at the same place my grandma lives and she knew how grandma had been so excited for us to visit!  They gave us bags of books and crayons for the kids to play with during church and we got a mini loaf of strawberry bread baked especially for guests.  I have never felt quite as honored when I visited a church as I did that morning.  Everyone knew just who we were and they all had a story to share.  Part of me didn't want to leave.  I love how much they love my grandma.

When we got back from church the kids all did a little performing.  They are all natural born hams.  I admit it might be my genes.

I am so glad we got this picture.  It was worth every mile we trekked!

I loved getting to visit my grandma.  I wasn't sure if we would be able to enjoy the time with her moved into her new apartment but the weather was perfect so the kids could play outside and the big living area was never busy and the boys could watch cartoons without bothering anyone.  (I wasn't sure the TV would even get cartoons!)  It was really a ton of fun and I hated having to leave.  I am glad to know grandma is happy and she lives in a wonderful environment.  A great third stop on our tour.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Trip to Wisconsin - Second Stop

Our second stop on our Wisconsin tour was to visit some friends from Minnesota.  They made the trip from the Twin Cities to spend the day with us.  We met in Oshkosh and visited the Air Traffic Control tower.  Dave is a controller and he managed to get us a tour of the tower.  I loved getting to see the view from the top.  It was only a couple of weeks after the annual Air Show and the remnants were still visible.  It was amazing to see.  There are few things that are different about the airport since it's set up for the airshow.  They have long runways (to accommodate the bigger planes) with large colored dots at various points along the runway so they can tell the smaller planes (like those that perform at the airshow) to land on a certain colored dot since they don't need as long of a runway and then they just pull off into the grass.  And the taxiways are used alongside the runways during the show for the trick/acrobatic airplanes that fly together.  I hope to be able to see the airshow someday.  It sounds SO cool!
Then we got some lunch and ate at a park.  This picture of Mary and Alaina reminds me of when Mary used to care for me and my brothers and sister when we were little.  Of course, I was a little bit older, but it's still so sweet!

After lunch it was on the the flight museum.  It's one of those things I have always wanted to do but never had the chance.  I think one of the highlights was the Kids' Area.  Tons of hands on stuff.  Here is Dave and Justin flying an airplane.  After this picture Justin told Dave to go away, he was going to do it himself.  (Dave is a pilot so he can "play" really well!)

Well, you can read the sign to see what this is.  It was beyond cool!  Randy was hang gliding and trying to land on a certain spot to "win" the game.  It was hard!  The winds changed and he had to shift his weight to alter his direction.

This game was a similar concept but it's a hot air balloon.  You have only 30 seconds of power to push yourself up and then you have to let the winds push you in the right direction to land on the right spot, but the winds are different at various altitudes so you need to get to the right altitude for long enough to move in the right direction.  Travis wasn't able to do it.  (I didn't try.  It looked hard!)

There was also a game to try to balance a marble in a circular bowl shape, like you would need to do when flying a helicopter.  I did try that one and I couldn't do it.  Dave rocked that one too.  (Good thing, being a pilot and all...) 
Then we took the tram over to the hangars where they had all the cool old airplanes.  And they gave plane rides too.  Our kids were too young and honestly, I think only Justin would have gone anyway.  There was a replica of the Spirit of St. Louis even.  Amazing to see the different designs.

And they had little pedal car airplanes for the kids.  Alaina's legs were too short so she enjoyed lounging and being pushed around.

Justin's might have been a little too long but there wasn't any way he wasn't getting in one!

It was a lot of walking and after a while Justin needed to ride.  We didn't have a stroller but Mary had one for her foster baby.  Baby, like little baby.  And a girl at that.  Her bow was sitting in the tray of the stroller so Justin found it, put it on and declared himself to be the baby.  That's all it takes, right?  Isn't he precious?

It was a long day for the kids but SO much fun!  We had a blast getting to see Dave and Mary.  They came with us to see my grandmother (our third stop!) and take a group picture.  I love having these pictures!  It took my mother, grandmother and a nurse at the assisted living home where my grandmother lives to get everyone to look the same way at the same time.

Mary and Dave are planning to come visit us in Houston for the Buddy Walk.  I am pretty psyched about that!  The weather should be cooler and we can get outside and play!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Trip to Wisconsin - First Stop

I have been trying to get to Wisconsin all summer long.  My grandmother had a big birthday this summer and she has not met Alaina so I really wanted to visit.  Then Randy announced that he needed to take some time off so he wouldn't lose vacation days.  That sealed the deal and after some schedule manipulation we were on our way.  There is always so much to do and so many people to see that the time goes so quickly.  Our first stop was my cousin Kurt and his wife Mary's.  We have both had additions to our families since the last time we saw each other.  That made the visit even more fun!  We enjoyed meeting Andrew and getting to play with Lexi. 
The last time we went to Wisconsin was in August a couple of years ago and the weather was so  awesome compared to Houston.  It was great again this time.  We went to the park and played kickball and collected maple helicopter seeds to throw and watch spin.  We relaxed and watched the kids play and then we were introduced to pudgy pies.  Kurt and Mary have the best backyard and they set up a tent for the kids to play while we assembled the ingredients for the pudgies.  We could never cook over a campfire in Houston so this was a major treat. 

I had never had pudgies so when Mary explained the concept I was ready to have a several course meal of various stuffed sandwiches: start with a PB and J, then move on to pizza, and top it off with a cherry pie.  Travis was all about trying PB and J but Justin was fascinated that we could cook one of his favorite foods (a hot dog) over the fire.  He thought Randy might need some help.

As with marshmallows, I am impatient and I want my food done quickly.  I had to take my time since I was cooking for Travis and Alaina.  Mary made a beautiful pudgy and it her efforts to show us how it turned out, she managed to dump it on the ground.  So much for that pudgy.

But that's okay, her smore turned out perfect!  and she got to eat the whole thing!

Mary also planned a really fun scavenger hunt for the big kids.  And meanwhile Kurt managed to convince Alaina that he wasn't all that bad. 

Then the kids threw their helicopters off the deck.  And then they ran down to collect them and throw them off again.  Too much fun!

The next day we went to the zoo.  The coolest thing we saw was a giraffe drinking.  We could see him swallowing the water.  Going right down!  All the kids were fascinated.  I admit it, so were we.

In one of the exhibit halls there was a train club showing off its model trains.  They set up a huge track and each member was responsible for decorating a certain section of the track.  They were so amazing!  This part was a church with a cemetery complete with hearse.  All the kids enjoyed watching the trains.

And there was even a Weinermobile!  Go Oscar Mayer!

Then we rode the real train at the zoo.  It was so fun getting to see the animals actually move around and not be completely lethargic because it's so hot!  And we even got to see penguins, something we don't have at our zoo.  Go figure...

My aunt and uncle were so sweet and they invited us for dinner.  The cousins' kids had a great time playing together.  It reminded us all of growing up and playing at grandma's house.  We love that our kids get to make good memories like we have.


And Randy got to do a little four-wheeling out to the deer stand.  He said he ate a few bugs on the way.  Yum!

The visits are never long enough but it was relaxing and a great change of pace.  The adults got some down time together and encouragement all around.  So glad we finally made it to Wisconsin!