Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring Break 2012 ~ Part 3

The next part of our trip started out just the same as any other day since we had been gone. Wake up, eat breakfast, get cleaned up and head out for the day's activities. On Saturday, however, the day that we were due to be heading home, I just wasn't ready to go home. I still had things that I wanted us to do. I asked Jon if we could possibly stay another day instead of hitting the road after going to the zoo. Spontaneous? Yes. Possible? Yes. To be very honest, it didn't even take much convincing to get Jon to say yes. (The fact that we were using his hotel rewards made it a lot easier to say yes, I'm sure!) Jon took a quick poll to see who wanted to stay another night, only one "no" was heard (I will explain that one), and Jon was quickly on the phone getting our stay extended. Yes!

Why was there are "no" when asked about staying in Dallas for another day? Well...I had promised Ben a long time ago that if he read The Hunger Games, that we would go see the movie when it came out. Seeing as though the movie came out over spring break made it very easy to be able to go. I told him that we would be home from our trip on Saturday and we could go see the movie on Sunday. Hence, Ben didn't want to stay and risk being the only kid at school that didn't see The Hunger Games on Monday morning. I assured him that we would make it work. I told him that Jon and I would do our best to make sure that we left early enough on Sunday that we could see the movie before heading back to school Monday morning. Ben was (mostly) satisfied.

Jon and I debated whether or not to go to the zoo on our trip. Ben and Abby claim to not like the zoo (Crazy, I know!), and since this trip was all about family, I didn't want to do anything that anyone really didn't want to do. However, 1. Jon and I really wanted to go. 2. We knew Luke would love it! Especially after going to the museum the day before and hearing him talk all day about wanting to see LIVE animals! 3. After our disappointment at the museum/science center, we made the executive decision that we were going to the zoo no matter what.

This is probably the funniest thing I saw on our whole trip! If this just doesn't scream "Texas", I don't know what does! This guy made me laugh!!

One of Luke's favorite things to do!

Have I mentioned that palm trees make me happy? (:

We were so excited that almost all of the animals were up and about! There's nothing worse than going to the zoo and all of the animals are inside or sleeping... The animals were amazing!

This little guy LOVED the zoo!! I am always thrilled to see things through my kids eyes and this was one of those times. Everything that Luke looked at, he looked at with such awe. Oh, to see things for the first time and be so amazed!

Aside from the heat and a few meltdowns from the little one, we had a great day at the Ft. Worth Zoo!

In keeping with getting things checked off of our lists of places we wanted to go in Dallas and our zoo day, I thought Rainforest Cafe had to be the perfect place to have dinner! I didn't, however, take into account getting there right at dinner time and it being insanely busy, or the fact that Luke might be a little bit afraid of the animals randomly coming to life.

Here is my quick summary of our Rainforest Cafe experience:
We waited a very. long. time. to be seated.
Luke was T.E.R.R.I.F.I.E.D of the gorillas.
We had to move to a different table where Luke was much happier with a safer distance between him and the gorillas.
The service was s.l.o.w...
I have decided that you don't go to Rainforest Cafe for the food or the service, but for the scenery and atmosphere

If you were to ask Luke now, he would say that it was great! Although, I don't think he would still like to be anywhere near those silly gorillas!

It's finally time to check out of the hotel and think about going home.

But not before a stop at Ikea!

I had never been to Ikea and have heard so much about it! I had to see what all of the talk was about. I was completely overwhelmed! There is just so much there. You have to go through the store twice. Once to see everything and then again to get out. Crazy! I did buy a few things, but I don't think it is a place that any of my three guys care to ever go back to. I am glad I have finally been there and I would love to go back!

Jon and I waited long enough! With a 7-Eleven on (what seemed like) every corner, we knew that we had to have a Slurpee! I am shocked that this is the only Slurpee we had the whole time we were in Dallas.

Finally getting it just before getting on the road to head home was the perfect time! I enjoyed that Slurpee goodness almost all the way home! YUM!!

I am happy to say that Ben and I did make it home in time to go see The Hunger Games. It wasn't looking so good for us to get there in time, but Jon dropped us off at the movie theater before we ever came home. I know...I know...

On the way home we all talked about our favorite parts of the trip. This is what we all had to say:

Luke ~ the snakes at the zoo

Abby ~ ice skating

Ben ~ the JFK museum and "the chicks" (oh brother...)

Me ~ the JFK museum and not having to do anything house related

Jon ~ the zoo, hotel and being together for meals out at really nice restaurants

We had a GREAT trip! I am so thankful that we were able to get out of the house, get out of town for a few days, not cook, not clean, not do laundry and just hang out and have fun as a family! I am also thankful that the Lord gave us the opportunity go on a great trip and be able to stay on track with spending cash only! There is no guilt in that! Thank you, Lord!!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Break 2012 ~ Part 2

Now that Jon was finished with the work that he had gone to Dallas for, I felt like we were really on vacation. We knew that there was a lot that we wanted to do and see in the two days that we had left. We really tried to pack in as much as we could and not feel like we were on a tight schedule. Obviously we still wanted to have fun and not feel stress.

On the way downtown we spotted, what my friend, Deborah, refers to as "God's microphone". She said that we should go up to the top, to the observation deck, to get a good look at Dallas. When I first asked what this place was called or how I would know where it was, all she said was, "Oh, you'll know it when you see it."

Yep. She was right! There is no denying that that looks like God's microphone.
She did tell me before we left for our trip that the real name is Reunion Tower. I was very disappointed, when I checked into it, that the observation deck was closed for renovations.

I'm pretty sure I mentioned this before, but palm trees make me HAPPY!!

Another friend told me that we really should consider checking out the science center while in Dallas. She mentioned that it was something that the whole family would enjoy. we went.

We started off at the Museum of Natural History. I knew this would be something Luke would LOVE with his love of dinosaurs and all! Unfortunately, we were all a little bit disappointed. I wasn't expecting it to be as awesome as in the movie Night At The Museum, but I was hoping it would be a lot better. It was very small and the exhibits were seriously lacking. It was sad listening to listen to Luke constantly asking, "When can we go see the live animals?" We knew what had to happen. (That's coming soon.)

This had to be the highlight of our whole science center experience. We all really enjoyed watching the turtles sunning themselves!

Before we headed out, and since we paid for it, we checked out the science building. It was a little bit better than the first building, but completely overwhelming to Luke.
I think I can safely say that we won't be going back to this museum/science center or recommending it to anybody.

We knew that, being in Dallas, we couldn't pass up the JFK museum. Ben was very interested in checking this one out!

This museum is phenomenal! I knew about JFK and what happened to him, but I really didn't know all of the details of that day or who was who. It was a little bit eery to be standing in the spot that Lee Harvey Oswald fired those fateful shots! I am so thankful that we went and learned about such a monumental day in our country's history. I highly recommend The Sixth Floor Museum.

This gave me and Jon a chuckle. He was ready take that exit!

So, I don't love it when Jon has to travel for work, but I just might have a new perspective. Thanks to Jon traveling, he has earned a lot of hotel rewards points. That is, after all, how we were able to have this little vacation and stay a few days after he was done working.

This is what those precious points got us! WOW!

This is the most amazing mall I have ever been to! It is gorgeous! Palm trees inside the mall?! Yes! Abby and I were in love, that's for sure!

When Abby heard that we would be going to a mall that had an indoor ice skating rink, that quickly became the only thing she cared about over our whole trip! That was the only thing that she wanted to do. She didn't care about anything else.

She LOVED it! Yes, she fell and got a pretty good knee wound, but she wouldn't have traded it for anything! Just to see my baby girl so happy...I wouldn't have traded it for anything either!

Vacation is great and I love my kids, but I really needed a break at this point in our trip. Jon was down in Dallas a day or two before the kids and I headed down, so I felt like I had barely seen him. We went out for a little stroll and found the hotel pool. It was so cool! Outdoor and on the roof! (Well, only the second floor roof, but still...) When we got back to the room I asked the big kids (Luke was already asleep.) if they would like to go for a "night swim". Of course they did!

And they loved it!

And so did I!

It's hard to believe as I look at this that all of the events in this post happened all in ONE day! It was a fun day that really didn't involve any stress. Well, unless you consider the crazy, insane, big city traffic. That could have been a little bit stressful.

More fun to come!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring Break 2012 ~ Part 1

When I first found out that Jon had to be in Dallas, I didn't think too much of it. When I found out that he had to be in Dallas over spring break...I was a little less than thrilled. That is, until I realized that maybe we could go with him. I mentioned it to him and he didn't see any reason why that wouldn't work. YAY!! I was so excited! We don't generally do anything over spring break. Not anything major, anyway. We might go to the movies or do something fun, but we really never go anywhere. I was thrilled to know that we were going to get away from home for a few days!

I have to say that before we ever left on Wednesday, Ben and Abby both had a very busy start to their spring break. Ben was able to go to Hutchinson to be with his buddies for a few days. It's was Sam's birthday, so it was very important to Ben to be able to celebrate with him. Plus, it had been a while since the three guys have been able to be together.

These lifelong friends had an amazing time together!

Abby informed me while we were gone that she only slept in her own bed ONE time over all of spring break. She was a busy girl! She spent the night at her friend, Anna's, house one night, then the next night Anna spent the night at our house. A day later she went to a birthday party sleepover at her friend, Sam's house.

Abby and Sam had fun being crafty!

I am SO thankful that my big kids have such great friends! (And that their friends have great parents that I trust and appreciate!)

Finally, the kids and I headed out on Wednesday morning. (Jon left on Tuesday.) After a few days of insane amounts of rain, I was happy to be heading toward the sunshine! Not to mention a much needed break from my normal daily responsibilities. No cooking, cleaning, laundry...

As we were on our way, Ben saw a sign for Pops. We love Pops! Ben asked if we could go there for lunch. I was in a little bit of a hurry to get to Dallas so that we could beat rush hour. Plus it's a little pricey and I wasn't so sure that I wanted to spend that kind of money this early in our trip. But you know what, we were on vacation, after all! I figured there wasn't really a need to rush and we had to eat lunch anyway, so why not?

I think Ben's main motivation was that he wanted a Coke bottle to take home. He is a Coke FANATIC!! He got what he wanted!

Abby opted for a black raspberry pop. Tasty!


Ben took this amazing picture.
Doesn't it look like Jesus could just step right through those clouds?!

I guess this means we are on the right path.

I guess this would be a good time to mention that I have never been a fan of Texas. I'm not sure why. I guess it seems like I had this picture in my head that people from Texas are annoying, proud, boisterous, have big hair and wear too much makeup, not accepting of anybody not from Texas... Since I moved to Oklahoma, I have met a lot of people from Texas. None of them have shown any of those signs. Well, except that they are proud of Texas. That's not so bad, right? I've always been proud to say that I'm originally from Michigan! Here, at the beginning of our trip to Dallas, Texas, I am happy to say that I no longer have those negative thoughts! To all of my Texas friends, I apologize! I will never give you a hard time about your great state again! I will be happy to visit your great state again any day! We loved it there! The people were friendly, the scenery was beautiful and we had a really great time!

Ok, now that that is out of the way, let's get back to the trip.

We didn't choose where to stay for the first part of our trip. Since Jon was on a work trip, we just stayed where his reservations had been made for him. We were excited when we found out he had a two-room suite at the Embassy Suites.

I knew it couldn't be bad when I walked in and saw palm trees! Palm trees make me happy!!

On Thursday morning, after an amazing breakfast that included made-to-order omelets, we thought it would be fun to start the day out with a swim. What kid doesn't love to hit the hotel pool?!

The kids loved it!

I'm not sure what Luke's favorite part of the hotel was. It's a toss up between...
the fish inside the hotel...
and being able to watch the big jets coming in to land at DFW.
He was pretty thrilled with both!

Driving in Dallas was a little bit overwhelming! There are highways all over the place! I don't know what I would have done without my trusty GPS!

One of the things I miss about Michigan...7-Eleven. I had no idea that there would be 7-Eleven's on almost every corner in Dallas! Ben and Abby were pretty happy too!

Thursday was a big day for Jon. The work that he had to do before going to Dallas was very stressful! He had to teach on Wednesday and Thursday. So once Thursday evening rolled around, he was one relieved guy! It called for celebration! We were looking for a pizza place for dinner, but on the way saw this gorgeous! It actually turned out to be a double rainbow!

I love that God gives us these beautiful reminders of his love and promise to us! I think on this night it was meant especially for Jon! I am so proud of Jon for all of the time and effort that he put into his work project! It was a lot of work and very stressful (for all of us!) and I know he (along with the rest of us) was thrilled for it to be over.

We didn't end up finding a pizza place for dinner, but we did find The Cheesecake Factory. I think The Cheesecake Factory is the perfect place to celebrate!

Of course, you can't go to The Cheesecake Factory and not have cheesecake! That would be just plain wrong!

This is WAY too long of a post!
Stay tuned for the rest.
The really fun stuff is still to come!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Small Group Fried Chicken Dinner

I love my small group. I love that we can share what's on our minds and hearts. I love that we all love to eat.

About a year ago, one of the guys in my small group mentioned that his favorite food is fried chicken. Well... if you know anything about my family, fried chicken is a big deal. My (Mom's recipe that she found in a newspaper or magazine many years ago!) fried chicken recipe has been the topic of many conversations, threats and jokes. I am not allowed (or, at this point, willing) to give out the recipe. This recipe is the only fried chicken recipe that I ever remember my mom making and is the only one that I have ever made. I won't give out the recipe, but I will be happy to have you over for dinner! :)

I told Clint (the guy in my small group.) that we would have to have him and his family over for dinner. Unfortunately it took almost a year for the dinner to actually happen. My old electric skillet gave up on me and died. I wasn't willing to fry that amount of chicken on the stove. It would just take way too long. I got a new electric frying pan for Christmas and we quickly set a date to have our whole small group over for the elusive, popular, delicious fried chicken.

I fried about 15 pounds of chicken! Thankfully, everybody else brought everything else!

Here it is! Did you ever think fried chicken could look so good?

I meant to take pictures of all of the amazing food that everyone brought, but of course, I forgot and just took it late, after everything have been dove into.

I made these cupcakes for our fried chicken dinner. This is the third year in a row that I have made them, so I think that means they are a regular springtime tradition. Aren't they the happiest cupcakes ever?! I love them!!

I'm so disappointed that I didn't get pictures of everyone!

The fried chicken dinner was a success! Some friends that used to be in our small group, but moved away, came. It was great to get to see them again! All of the kids had fun playing outside. Jon made a fire outside and the guys hung out there. The ladies enjoyed sitting around inside talking. I loved every minute of it!

Thank you, SO much, to everyone for coming and for bringing so much delicious food! I can't wait to get together again!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Busy Bag Exchange

A few weeks ago I was invited to participate in a Busy Bag Exchange. Do you even know what that is? Well, they are huge on Pinterest. (If you don't know what Pinterest is, you might need to come out from under the rock you've been hiding under. (:) I was thrilled to get to participate in something like this! I knew Luke would love all of the little activities that he would end up with.

The girl that set up the exchange (our super crafty, creative head of MOPS) made it very easy! She chose a bunch of activities, posted the links on her blog, had those of us who were interested choose which one we would like to do and then told us how many we needed to make. You can read all about it here.

I chose Popsicle Color Matching.

These cute little popsicles couldn't have been any easier to make and I think they turned out super cute!

These are all of the fun busy bags that Luke ended up with. I know he is going to love using them. I love when kids can play and learn at the same time!

Luke took an instant liking to this counting game. So cool!

I am hoping to participate in another busy bag exchange and have even more fun, learning activities for my busy little learner!