Friday, July 10, 2015

Independence Weekend

This week we had some lovely celebrations for Independence Day.

Ashland held its 25th annual Balloon Fest, and we went to the Balloon Glow on Friday Evening.  Only 10 of the 25 balloons were out that evening due to some wind issues, but still it was fun to watch them glowing and flickering on and off to the beat of the music.

The next morning, Tom took the kids to the Fourth of July parade.  It started just down the block from our house.  I was home sick, and missed it, but took this picture of some of the booty that my kids brought home.  This was what was left after they had been raiding it for more than 2 hours!  My own childhood experience at parades was that we kids would scramble for tossed candy and maybe get a tootsie roll or a pack of Smarties.  Never more than 2 or 3 pieces of penny candy at most.  We were not expecting anything more than that, so we were unprepared. Tom said that they were served Popsicles (bomb pops) at the parade, and that walking home he had stuff sticking out of all of his pockets.  In addition to all of the candy, they received coloring books, punch balls, a Frisbee and a toy banana, and 2 superhero light up toys.  There are full sized cereal bars and fun size snicker bars in that pile.  Seriously?
We heard that the parade was bigger and better than usual this year because Ashland is celebrating its bicentennial this year.  But they had their own parade last week, and just in case, I'm never missing a parade again!

Saturday night we watched fireworks from the parking lot across the street.  Usually we hear it with the local radio station simulcast, but this year nobody in our area had a stereo on.  Even without the music it was a great show.

On Sunday evening, we wrapped up our Independence celebration by attending the Pops in the Park concert at the Bandshell.  I didn't take any pictures, but it was a great concert, including cannon shots and popping brown bags to go with the 1812 Overture, and sparklers with the closing song.

Happy Birthday, America!  Happy Birthday, Ashland!

Monday, July 6, 2015

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Photo © Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
Last week Tom attended a conference for work, and we tagged along with him.  The conference was held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

It was a long car ride, but Tommy and Ellie did really well,
watching DVDs, giggling, and napping.
While Papa was going through the HUGE check-in line, we explored
the hotel.  This was some of the artwork in the lobby.
Photo: © Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
We stayed in the area of the hotel called The Cascades, named for the beautiful indoor waterfalls.
We found these horses in the shopping district, called the Delta.
Lots of very pricey shops with cute stuff.  A store full of cute
children's toys and train sets that I had to steer begging
children away from for the remainder of our visit.
While Papa was attending his conferences, we went on lots of explores.
They loved the roaring waterfalls.  We also enjoyed the swimming pools.
Photo: © Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
As if the cascades weren't enough of a water feature, the hotel
actually had its own riverboat ride.  Inside.  The river also had
catfish, carp, and a few koi swimming around.
We enjoyed a ride on the riverboat.
And our kiddos were good little passengers, oohing and aahing at all the right spots.
I got lost so often that the kids started running
to the maps every time they saw one to help me
figure out where we were.
I packed a box full of toys and entertainment from the dollar store.
One afternoon my kids entertained all of the passersby with whoopee cushion.
And may I just say that people of all classes laugh at fart noises.
We had caricatures done of the kids.  They kept each other and the artist smiling
with their whoopee cushions.  It was fun, but I don't recognize my kids in the final product.

We enjoyed the pools, but other than that, the hotel was really geared
towards adults.  All that entertainment, but no playground in sight.
So we left our little world inside a world and took a break at a city park.
We had some fun, but Ellie was ready to return to air conditioned luxury.

Every evening, the hotel puts on a show with its water fountains. We watched
 the water dance all the way to the top of the atrium to the rhythm of international music. 

I guess my kids have learned to use the words show and movie
interchangeably, because they kept calling the water show
 a movie, even while they were watching it.
 On the way home, we made a few stops.  One was a spur of the moment stop at a train museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  The boys enjoyed the train tour, but I was feeling hot and claustrophobic and couldn't wait to get out of there.  It was definitely NOT the same as the vacation we had just left behind, and  I won't be traveling by train any time soon.  I didn't even take any pictures.

Our next stop was at the Florence Mall, just south of Cincinnati.  They have a two story carousel, so we ate dinner at the food court and took a ride before and after.  On the first ride, Ellie rode a hopping bunny, and Tommy chose just the stable seat that he always likes.  On the second ride, they both went for the spinning cup, and kept it twirling for several minutes before the ride started and through the whole turn, stopping only briefly to let in a few extra passengers.

They walked away without getting dizzy.

Tom hung out with a dragon next to the spinner.

On the way home we also stopped by Grandma Lux's house for a visit, and of course we took her some UDF ice cream for us all to enjoy.  It was getting late, so we didn't stay long.

A few more hours and we were home again, home again, jiggety jog.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Neverland Pirates Party

Thursday was the kids' birthday, so we had our second party.  This one had the theme of Jake and the Neverland Pirates, which is one of their favorite shows.

We invited the children in their Sunday School class, plus their friend from next door.  When they arrived, each child was offered a bandana, an eyepatch, an earring, and a hook so they could dress as pirates.  The adults dressed up, but the kids didn't want to.  Except mine.  Weeks ago, I made Tommy a Jake outfit.  He immediately rejected it, and has been declaring himself to be Captain Hook lately.  So finally I caved and bought a Captain Hook costume.  Of course, on the day of the party, with most of the Jake costume lost, he decided that's what he wanted to be!

Tommy dressed as Jake, and Ellie came as the Pirate Princess.  Of course. :)

Papa got in on the act, dressing as my favorite pirate, Sharky.
I couldn't ask for a better dad for my kiddos!

And Grandpa was a good sport, wearing a pirate cap, a hook, and even an earring.
What we won't do for love!
 Several of the kids were hungry, so we started our party with lunch.

Although they can't be seen easily, our lunch menu included Skull Sandwiches,
cannonballs (cheese balls), Cubby's treasure maps (string cheese), pretzels to hook
with your hook, Skully's crackers (Skully is a parrot on the show),
and the Pirate Princesses rainbow wands (fruit skewers).
After lunch, we started our treasure hunt.  We had the back yard set up as a treasure map, and the kids went from place to place, with a challenge at each location.

Our first stop was Pirate Cove, where Captain Hook told  the kids they had to walk the plank.  We had some cautious walkers, and they all made it safely across the pool.

Next, they went past the Tiki tree forest and climbed Neverpeak Mountain.
There, they were blindfolded, spun around, and sent through
the trampoline to place their stickers on a treasure map.
All but one child got their marker pretty close to the X on the map.

On to Crocodile Creek.  Our back yard is fairly level, so instead of slipping and sliding, we actually saw a few army crawling to the finish!  Even though it was a difficult challenge to get to the end, this was a big favorite spot, and several came back to play there again later.
Walking on from the creek to our next stop, Skull Rock.  I forgot to take a picture of that spot.

Skull Rock became the starting place for the seahorse race.
We re-purposed our horses from the princess party, and the trusty
 steeds became seahorses for our maritime theme.

This spot was Mermaid Lagoon.
No challenge here, the path, which was spray painted on the grass, just passed nearby.
There were mermaids swimming though, so the kids stopped by for a visit.

Finally, behind a nearby tree, the treasure chest was located.  Lots of prizes inside to play with.

Now that all the kids had some treasure in hand, we went back to the patio for the birthday kids to open gifts.

LOTS of new toys to play with, each more fun than the rest!
Here, Tommy has found Bucky, the ship he has been talking about for weeks.
We can never have too much princess gear!

When you're a kid, watching someone else open gifts is never too much fun.
A few slipped off to more interesting pursuits.  The seahorses got dragged
over to Crocodile Creek for a bit of play!  
Time for cake!
This year, I attempted Bucky, the ship that our puny pirates run around
in on the show.  Unfortunately, my Bucky melted in the heat!  Even full
of dowels for support, Bucky sank under the weight of the fondant.
Still, it tasted good, and that's what mattered.

Our Pirate Crew

Sister Lane, the beloved Sunday School teacher, came!
What better way to end a pirate party, than by smashing a pirate ship 
It didn't hold up well, but the only thing that would break was
the hanging part.  After a few attempts at re-hanging,
I put it on the ground and let the kids hit it there.
It still didn't break, so finally we had them tear into it with their hands!

Papa helps Ellie get on her first 2-wheeler bike.
Well, 4 wheels if we count the training set.  Which we'd better!

What a fun day, mateys!   Arrrrrr!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Princesses and Shiny Farmers

My kiddos have reached the age where it is time to have birthday parties with friends their age, rather than just with family.  They've also reached the age where they each want a party with their own theme.  So this year, we are doing two parties.  Each party will celebrate both children.

The first party was Eliana's choice of theme, so we had a princess party.  We also had this one with just family.  In fact, just part of our family.  My sister Sandy graciously allowed the use of her "castle" for the event.  We had everyone dress in their royal best (okay, Sunday best) and had a royal gala.  I went with a princesses and knights in shining armor, or "shiny farmers" as my kids call them, theme to even up the girl-boy thing.

Before things got out of hand and clothes got too messed up, we headed out side to try for a family portrait.  We never did get everyone paying attention at the same time, but I kind of like this one.

Guests included: Uncle John...

Aunt Sandy

Rachel and John

Megan and Cole
and Grandma Lux

The Princess Eliana cake was the star of the dessert table...
flanked by a castle full of cupcakes...
...and an army of shiny farmers.
We also had crown pb&j sandwiches, castle and crown cheeses, crackers, pretzels, popcorn...
...and fruit wands.
after our big fancy meal...
Ellie and Papa danced to some princess music.
Megan was the only other person to dance, and she did a great job of swinging Ellie to the music.

Then we headed outdoors for some more fun.  We started with horse races...
Megan had to use strategy to overcome Cole's fancy football maneuvers.

John learned that horses are faster than dragons.

Then we had archery contests.
Check out the look of concentration on my face!

We went back in to open presents and eat cake.
This was Tommy's gift to Ellie.

And we finished off the evening with a pinata.

Which our princess finished off forthwith!
This Thursday, on their actual birthday, we will be doing a kid party at home with a Neverland Pirates theme.  Stay tuned...