Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Austin’s Birthday!

Where did the time go?  This summer went so fast and before I knew it, it was already Austin’s birthday!  As usual, we made the day all about him.  And since I happen to think he is a pretty awesome kid, with awesome ideas, we had a pretty awesome day.

Rob had to work, being a Tuesday and all, but we made plans for him to meet up with us later.  Austin chose to go to the ZRS Fossil store in the morning.  We had been there once before, but we were rushed.  This morning we had more time!  Also, Austin chose to receive money for his birthday, rather than a bunch of little gifts.  So, he made the store clerks day when he walked into the store and announced “It’s my birthday and I have $50 to spend!”  What he failed to tell the guy was that he was not spending all $50 in that store, he had other plans for most of the money.  But, the clerk probably spent over an hour with him showing him all the cool fossils and rocks in the store.  The majority were way out of Austin’s price range (even if he chose to spend all $50) so I know the guy was just showing him to be nice.

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And, as you can probably see, the store contains a myriad of fragile items so I spent my time making sure the girls were not touching every shiny object in sight.  I’d say we left with our pockets a little lighter…but since we were buying rocks, that wasn’t the case.

Afterwards, per Austin’s request, we headed to Boston Market where we met up with Rob.  Austin and I had recently gone here for our date night and he loved it.  I told you he was awesome!  One of my favorite fast restaurants too, but one I rarely go to anymore.

After we stuffed ourselves with mashed potatoes and gravy we headed back to our stomping grounds and Shakopee’s SandVenture pool.  We spent our time building sand castles and swimming. It was a beautiful day for this!

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We capped off the night with a family dinner at Lion’s Tap, where they stuck a candle in his burger and sang. He was terribly embarrassed by that but that’s good for him!  Once we got home Rob and Austin had a nerf gun battle before bed.

A week later we had his friends over for his birthday party.  Instead of spending the money to play laser tag or something like that, we decided to have his friends over to our house for a nerf gun war and campout.  For about half the price of those party places, I bought each boy a smaller nerf gun and we set up some wood barricades in our backyard (they were thrown out of the basement during the flood so we put them to use before we threw the away!).  This was the easiest birthday party ever.  They played non-stop!  Inside to eat pizza for  20 minutes and then back out.  I think Rob had just as much fun as the kids.  He was marveled by what great snipers they were.

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I finally got the tent set up around 9pm and after an outdoor movie (The Avengers) I think they went to bed around 1am.  There were quite a few boys going in and out of our house all night.  Bathroom breaks.  I told Rob it would have been easier to rent a port-a-potty.  But, I think it was also a lot of “nerves” as it was a first sleepover for a handful of the kids, and a first camp out for many as well.  All in all, a great party.

Happy Birthday Austin!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Prairie Fossil Center

In honor of Austin’s 9th birthday, and his love for dinosaurs/fossils/exploring, we decided to make a side trip on our way home from the 4th of July festivities in West Bend.  We made a pit-stop at the Prairie Fossil Park in Rockford, IA.  I had read about it online about a year and have been meaning to take him there since but never found the best opportunity to go.  We had decided that we would take a road trip down there on Tuesday, for his birthday.  But, then I figured it would be easier for me (less driving) if we just made the stop on the way home from West Bend.

It was kind of a dreary day for fossil hunting, and also, due to the holiday, the visitor center was not open.  However, we made the best of it.  It was a pretty cool area.

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I really had no idea what to expect.  I was not expecting these kinds of bluffs/cliffs though.  The girls were a bit hesitant to be walking around on all the loose grave and steep drop offs, but Austin was in his element!  I (of course) had to take Ellie back to the car and the bathroom within minutes of hiking out to this place, and when we came back Rob and and Austin had found their way down the bluff and up the other side.

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The girls and I eventually made our way over to them, but using the path, instead of climbing up the rocks.

I guess it used to be a gravel pit of sorts. I never did get the history of the place.  We ended up finding quite a few fossils of shells but nothing too awesome.  I think we probably spent more time crawling around than actually looking for fossils though!

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Austin and I eventually made our way to the lake to test the water temperature.  Although it felt nice, this ended up being a very messy mistake.  One that the girls had to get in on too.

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The ground was made of a clay/silt.  It got all over our shoes, and did not come off easily. Oh well, a little dirt never hurt anyone.

If it weren’t so far away, I think we’d go back here again some day when we were weren’t pressed for time and wanting to get home.  Maybe bring a picnic and check out the visitor center too.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Little Mermaid Jr.

I guess over a month off is a long enough hiatus.  So, as I last posted, my kids spent the majority of their summer rehearsing with the River Valley Children’s Theater to perform “The Little Mermaid Jr.” at the end of July.  The whole process was very interesting and organized.  The kids spent the first day learning a song and dance.  They spent the second day “trying out” for parts.  They had to do the song, dance, and then read some lines for the directors.  That night they were assigned parts.

Backtrack a little bit with me.  We all know Ellie loves being on a stage.  Any stage.  But Austin doesn’t seek the spotlight like that.  And Riley runs from it.  So, I wasn’t sure Austin was going to like this at all and before we signed him up I went over the various “boy” parts that would be available.  Sebastian, Prince Eric, King Triton, Flounder, Grimsby, Chef Louie,….  He ended giving a shrug and saying “Okay, I’ll try it. I just do NOT want to be Grimsby”.

Fast forward to the cast list.  Austin Runchey……Grimsby.  Too his credit he just laughed.

Ellie was awarded the part of Gull #1 (one of Skuttle’s friends) and Riley was given Princess #2 (and various sea creatures and ‘the wind’).

Rehearsals were closed so I only ever saw about 3 minutes each day I picked them up.  But finally the show dates were here!  We went with my sisters family and my parents on Friday night, opening night.  Despite the microphones not working, and not being able to hear most of Austin’s lines, I was so proud of them!  I didn’t know what to expect from the group for 5 weeks of work, but I was really impressed with what they did!  And of course, I thought all my kids were awesome, but I was really excited about Austin’s performance.  He had quite a few lines to remember, and even a little song to sing (by himself) and he did it all wonderfully!  Riley went out and did her lines and roles without trouble and Ellie shined as a seagull!

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I never did get a great picture of them in their costumes (which were far more elaborate than I thought they’d be!).

I ended up going back for Saturday night with my brother’s family:

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And then figured I might as well finish off the trifecta by attending Saturday afternoon’s show too. 

I’m fairly certain Riley’s theatrical days are over.  She was a trooper but it just wasn’t her thing.  I do think that Ellie and Austin will try again next year if the show interests them.  There have been rumors of Annie and that makes Ellie really excited.  Stay tuned…

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Candy!

My kids have spent almost every weekday for the last 5 weeks practicing from 9:30 am-12 pm for a play through our community education group.  They have been extremely good sports about it.  That fact doesn’t surprise me for Ellie, since I know she loves this kind of thing, but it did surprise me a bit for Austin.  Austin doesn’t typically like things that go on and on like that for weeks at a time.  I’m hoping he is having a good time at the practices, just like Ellie.  Riley….well, Riley is Riley.  She liked it for about a day, maybe two, and then she figured out that while she was gone every morning her friends in the neighborhood were playing without her and that didn’t sit well with her.  Still, to her credit, she didn’t complain (much).

Then comes Thursday.  They had just gotten back from practice and we were discussing how they just have one practice left and then their 3 performances.  Then the phone rang.  It was their director asking that the cast all stay until 3:30 the next day to practice.  They would get two hours off, then the kids were due back at 5:30 to get ready for the show.  This information was received with groans from all three kids.

I decided that a distraction was in order.  So, we piled in the car and headed to Minnesota’s Largest Candy store.  The kids and I tend to make a trip there once a summer and we hadn’t gone yet so it was time!

We picked out some weird flavored sodas to try, scoured every aisle, walked by the fresh baked pies twice just to inhale the yummy scent, everyone picked out two treats, and Austin danced in the aisles to the polka music.

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My attempt at distraction worked well.  Who can be grumpy with a bagful of candy?

Bring on the weekend!  My kids are ready to perform (and on a sugar high)!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Flood

I know it’s been forever since I posted.  No giant reasons other than we’re busy enjoying summer.  Except for last Thursday.  Last Thursday I could have done without.

It started out fine.  I knew it was going to be a rainy day so I invited my sister over to work on a puzzle with me for a bit.  She showed up around 10:45am and said “There’s a car stuck on Thrush”.  I asked what she meant.  How could a car just get stuck in the middle of the street?  So, I looked at saw this:

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Wow!  I had no idea this was happening in front of my house!  So I quick texted my neighbor and let them know water was halfway up their driveway and they might want to come home.  Then a police officer walked by (the lady wouldn’t get out of her car so she eventually had to be rescued by the fire department) and said “They have water in the basement?” and I said “I don’t know, I was just telling them to come home.” and he said “No, They HAVE water in their basement.”.  Which made me walk around the corner to find out how he knew this:

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Oh.  Yep, I bet they do.  That was at 11:08am.  Which reminded me I should look at my backyard:

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11:09

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Then I told Rob he really needed to come home.  Then my sister and I spent about 15 minutes running from the front of the house to the back willing the water to stop rising.

11:35….it wasn’t stopping.

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Kerry went to pick up Austin from his camp because I didn’t want my van to be the second victim on the road and then took all my kids to her house.  Then she came back just in time to help us start moving everything out of our basement because it had started finding it’s way into our house.

12:38pm

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We had a wonderful support team come to our rescue.  A few neighbors showed up to start moving stuff to our garage and two teenagers from down the street, that I’ve never met, jumped in (literally) to help us move stuff.  We were fortunate to get most things out before it got too deep.

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At 3:30pm it was still pouring into our neighborhood.

By 4:00 we were starting to see the level decrease in our front yard (but hold steady in the backyard), and increase in our basement.

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We think our basement ended up with just under a foot of water.  The water stretched over a foot up our lookout windows.

The backyard cleared our 6 foot fence and then some.  A lot of our lumber for our porch construction floated two houses away.  That night Rob called a restoration company and they showed up around 10:45pm and left around 1am.  It was a LONG day.  Clean up was a drag (and still is) but we still feel fortunate to have lost very little.  It was also wonderful to see a neighborhood pull together like ours did.

Let’s hope this NEVER happens again.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Our Weekend

We had a really great weekend.  It encompassed a little bit of everything. 

This year we decided to purchase season passes to Valleyfair.  I think it’s something most of the families around here have done for a long time but it has just never made sense for us.  In the past, due to  the height restrictions I couldn’t be the chaperone for more than one of my kids at a time and it’s not like I could just leave the other two standing there while I rode a ride with one child.  Furthermore, Rob doesn’t like rides so I wasn’t counting on him going with us much.  Fast forward to this year and Austin no longer needs a chaperone for most of the rides and the girls can go on almost all the kiddie rides without me.  Plus, we committed to going at least once with some summer visitors we are having and if we go just one more time, the season pass pays for itself.  Long story short, we are now season pass holders to Valleyfair and we’ve already gone twice!  Friday night we were just going to go to get our photos taken for our IDs but not stay for any rides.

Well, that turned into the photos taken, touring Dinosaurs Alive, playing in the ball playhouse, riding a couple rides and having some mini donuts.

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And a quick visit with Snoopy.  Austin grudgingly posed for this picture with Snoopy on the premise that it would be the only one all summer I would make him participate in.  However, when Woodstock later came out to visit and the girls gleefully hugged him Austin said “Well, I suppose since he’s my favorite character I will hug him too.” and then shuffled over to him for a hug.  For the record, I’m fairly certain Austin has never mentioned Woodstock in his life or even knew his name. 

Saturday the kids eagerly awaited the arrival of Grandma and Grandpa Runchey!  When they got to our house we went to karate to grab Austin and then all headed to El Toro for a yummy lunch!  We watched a movie after lunch (some of us, namely me, took a quick cat nap) and then Rob and I headed out to a Hawaiian themed party at the CEOs house.  They had a pig roast, which I had never seen before.

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It took the chef about an hour to carve the pig and prepare all the meat but it was delicious and worth the wait!  It was a perfect night for an outdoor party on Lake Minnetonka!

Sunday morning we had donuts and, after a tearful good-bye to the Grandparents, Rob and Riley headed back to Valleyfair for their “date night”.  Lucky for Rob, and Rob’s ride-hating stomach, Riley ran into one of our neighbors, Elly, and rode most of the rides with her.

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Picture Rob and his legs in that car….it’s been done and it’s funny.

While they were seeking thrills at Valleyfair Austin, Ellie and I were relaxing on the deck at home.  I decided it was the perfect weather to sit out on the deck with a good book and I was soon joined by these guys.

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Austin was really enjoying his book but Ellie only lasted about 30 minutes and then decided to play “waitress”.  She opened up a cafĂ© called “Ellie’s Buffet” and served us Nilla wafers with chocolate sauce, Goldfish crackers covered in Fruit Roll-ups, and water.  The service was amazing.

Once Riley and Rob rejoined the group we headed out to get the plants for our garden and the girls decided to plant more flowers in the front yard.

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The weekend ended up being the perfect blend of productivity, fun, and relaxation.  I hope more of the same are in our future!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Last Preschool Fieldtrip!

Riley has her last day of preschool this upcoming Wednesday.  Last Friday I was able to join her school on their field trip to the YMCA camp Kici Yapi.  Camp Kici Yapi has always been one of my favorite field trips the school does.  Hard to believe that we are just about done with preschool and all the fun that comes along with it (and all the non-fun too….like shuttling her to and fro).

Once we got to the camp (which is about a 5 minute bus ride from her school…my kind of bus ride!) we split into groups and sang some camp songs.  Then the kids had a chance to make their own wind socks.

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We went on a short hike through the woods to the row boats.  One of the other dads volunteered to row my group around the lake.  He had just finished with his group so he already  had the life jacket on.  Probably a good thing because I’m not sure my rowing skills are where they need to be to maintain control of a vessel with 6 preschoolers bouncing around.

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We finished off our camp tour with a snack and a couple of trips down the “black hole”.  It’s a 100 foot long slide (which is green so they should either paint it or call it the green hole).

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In years past we have never been able to go down the slide because it was too muddy.  Since we finally had our chance, I had to try it out too.  I shot out the bottom and landed flat on my back.  There were teachers and parents at the bottom ready to catch the kids as they came down but they weren’t expecting an adult so they jumped back when they saw me leaving me to fend for myself.  I’m still feeling that one a little bit but it was fun.

Riley still has one fun day left with the Splash Pad on Wednesday.  I think she has mixed emotions about being done with school.  It took her quite a while to warm up to the idea of going to school (like a year and a half) so I’m hoping the next few months before Kindergarten don’t set us too far back.  I think the idea of being in the same school with her brother and sister are going to work (slightly) in my favor come the fall.

We’ve enjoyed the years at Shepard’s Flock but I’m also excited to close this chapter!