Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Trip Stop 6: Wildlife Prairie State Park (Hanna City, Illinois)

Our dear friends, Dave and Elizabeth, who used to live in Texas but now live in Illinois gave us a GREAT idea to go to the Wildlife Prairie State Park on our trip. We were hoping to have the chance to meet them there, too. (They have boys that are almost exactly our boys' ages.) Though it didn't work to see them on this trip, we were able to still check out the state park on our own. It was really fun!

We had reserved Caboose #4 as our "cabin" for spending the night. Ian, still as much of a train lover as ever, thought it was AMAZING that we got to stay inside a caboose!

After getting all settled in the caboose, we started to explore the park -- a zoo of sorts for native Illinois wildlife. We explored the "nursery," where they were keeping a few hurt animals, like a woodchuck.
We pretended to be bison.
We walked through the reptile & amphibian exhibit. Here Ian is looking for the frog, I think.
Ryan thought the gigantic turtle was pretty fun!
Ian had never seen snake skin before and was very interested in learning about it.
The display here encouraged visitors to "scratch" a glove off their hand using just the rock to imitate what a snake might feel like when shedding its skin.
We headed down the road to a super cute restaurant called the Jubilee Cafe and then explored some more before bedtime. Ian enjoyed using the timbers as balance beams.
Ryan was obsessed with the pea gravel and kept trying to eat it.
We went as a family on "caboose trail" as a before-bed hike. (Good suggestion, Gottschalks!)
We were amazed to see this elk about 30 yards away from us! Here's the close up.
You can just barely see the horns behind the fence.
Ryan enjoyed walking for the first part of the hike and then preferred to be carried. :)
We got Ian back out of bed when we noticed all of the fireflies. (Kim has fond memories of catching fireflies on her family's annual summer trips to the Midwest.) Ian used a bug net to try to catch the fireflies while Kim and Matt just used our hands.
Ian was fascinated with the three or four bugs that we caught but didn't mind releasing them before we came back into the caboose for the night.
Early the next morning, while Daddy and Ian slept, Momma and Ryan did some exploring. Ryan loved finding birds, making the bird sign, and then chasing after them. :)
Here Ian shows off where he got to sleep ... the TOP bunk! Ian had never slept up so high before (and probably wouldn't have gotten to this time either if there hadn't been the trusty bedrail. Ha!)
We hid a note for our friends who were going to stay in Caboose #4 the next week. Apparently, the cleaning crew is pretty thorough. The note wasn't there anymore by the time the Gottschalks arrived.
Then, we got to explore some parts of the park that had been closed the night before. One of Ian's favorite places was the visitor center that had a kid exploration area. He loved pretending to be the vet, typing in the computer, looking at the x-ray films,
and checking out the large assortment of native Illinois stuffed animals.
Ryan took his morning nap while we looked at some outside exhibits.
Ian enjoyed crossing some bridges and looking for the animals in their natural habitats,
like this sleepy cougar.
Ryan woke up when we got to the "farm" part of the park.
Both boys had fun trying to pet the pigs ...

... as well as watching them take mud baths!
Then, we looked at the raptor exhibit.
We got there just in time for feeding. Here, the docent shows Ian the dead, gutted rats she planned to feed the eagles. (Feeding time was a non-event as the eagles wait until after everyone's got to actually eat.)
We ended our trip by heading to the train area. We took turns posing as conductors,

and then we played in the train "museum" (basically just lots of fun trains and vehicles)

before we got on the train.

We ended up being the only passengers on the train! The boys seemed to enjoy the 30-minute ride. We saw a deer but mainly just enjoyed the ride. The tunnel was a highlight of the train ride for Ian.

At the end of the ride, Ian got to climb on the engine.

If any of you are ever in the Peoria area, we'd highly recommend the Wildlife Prairie State Park. It wasn't busy at all and was very kid-friendly and educational! Perfect for preschool and early grade school kids!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Trip Stop 5: Columbia, Missouri

 We were excited to have only 45 minutes in the car between stops 4 and 5!! We were excited to see Kim's dear friend, Karen -- her partner in the "Baby-sitting Duo," neighbor in middle and high school, bridesmaid in her wedding! Karen and her husband, Mike, live on a farm outside of Columbia. We had met their two beautiful daughters, Natalie (age 6) and Anna Kate (age 3), on our last visit. We hadn't met sweet Grant yet -- their son who was born in January. What a wonderful Christian family they have, and what a treat to spend time with them. As an added bonus, Karen's mom, Patsy, was visiting from Texas, so we got to spend time with her, too!

Anna Kate and Ian worked puzzles, played with trains, and had all of Anna Kate's dolls "go to the beach" while Karen fixed us a delicious feast for dinner!

After dinner, Mike was willing to show Ian some of his farm equipment. Ian was expecting to just look (and perhaps touch) the big equipment. What a wonderful surprise when he found out that Mr. Mike was going to take him for a ride!
 Look at the pure joy on his face!
 Kim wanted a tour of 1Canoe2, the letterpress company that Karen, her sister-in-law, and a friend own. They just converted an old barn into their office space. It's so charming! Kim was in awe of all of the beautiful products they sell. I highly suggest that you check out their website sometime!
 In the morning, Ian and Karen picked some fresh raspberries from the backyard to go with our big, homemade breakfast.
 The 5 kids - Grant, Natalie, Anna Kate, Ian, and Ryan
 my beautiful friend, Karen (in our 'matching' shirts ... ha!)
Thank you so much for your gracious hospitality and yummy cooking, Karen and Mike! It was so good to see you, your kids, and even your mom! :)

Ryan at 14 months

*always on the go!
*is getting faster at walking (sometimes it seems pretty close to running ....)
*doesn't hesitate when going over uneven surfaces/up and down small steps
*is very fast at climbing our stairs but still doesn't know how to come down (safely :))
*LOVES throwing objects -- balls, toys, food, cups, books, ANYthing (Watch out, world! He can really chuck things with gusto!)
*learned to give zerberts

*says "amen" at the end of our prayers (often right after we say it but sometimes right with us!)
*seems to say "In" for "Ian"
*says "babo" for blueberries, "bubbo" for Goldfish crackers, and "amull" for apple
*likes to say "a duh" (all done), especially when we're doing something he doesn't like (for example: when we're wiping him up after a meal)
*loves signing the word "milk," and especially loves it when he actually gets to grab his milk out of the refrigerator afterwards
*still copies many words we say
*still mainly points and grunts to show us what he wants

*still nursing in the morning and night and before nap
*loves whole milk
*still is very particular about what foods he'll eat, though he seems to be making progress
*frozen peas seem to be one of his favorites

*very consistently sleeping through the night (yay!) from 7:30-6:00/6:30
*occasionally takes two naps but has mainly transitioned to taking one nap right after lunch
*still lets Daddy hold him to fall asleep if we're out and about

*watching Daddy return from work!
*creating a warpath of destruction behind himself (the other night in a matter of minutes, he threw three books from his bedroom into the bathtub while Ian was in it, unrolled the toilet paper roll, and reached on TOP of the toilet to pull down the toilet bowl brush).
*carrying objects to random places in the house (his favorite place to stash things seems to be the clothes hamper in Momma & Daddy's bedroom or, if it's unlocked, the kitchen trashcan ... we're still hoping to find Kim's watch in a secret hiding place!)
*any toy with buttons that he can push to make noises or music (especially our toy Hummer & Escalade)
*push toys
*ball popper
*toy golf clubs
*Cozy Coupe
*starting to actually like being read to (will choose a book, bring it to either Momma or Daddy, and turn around to show that he wants to sit down on our laps)
*seems to especially enjoy "Moo Baa La La La," any lift-the-flap or tactile book (especially "Dear Zoo"), any book with photos of babies
*getting tickled or chase
*walking around with a t-shirt over his head, wanting us to say "Where's Ryan?"

*getting wiped up
*having to stop what he's doing to get his diaper changed
*being away from Momma and Daddy
*when Ian wants to play with the toy he is playing with

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Trip Stop 4: Lake of the Ozarks (Camdenton, Missouri)

 We took a jaunt from Jefferson City down to the lake!! Kim's Uncle Mark and Aunt Kathy have a condo on the lake, and they were at the condo for the 4th of July holiday. Kim's cousin, Laura & husband Andy and kids, Drew, Luke, and Chloe were there, too. We had an amazing time together ... this family really knows how to have fun!

Right after getting there, we went for a ride in Uncle Mark & Aunt Kathy's pontoon boat. What a treat to get out on the lake! Both boys really liked it!

 We took a stop at Bridal Cave. The kids fed the koi fish that were hanging out along the dock.
 Ian and Chloe (also age 4) were fast friends. Chloe's a little go-getter and took Ian by the hand, leading him where he needed to go. Precious!
 Uncle Mark & Aunt Kathy bought the kids some bags of "sand" that they could sift through to find "gold" and other "gems." Here, Ian checks out the pretty rocks left behind once all the sand was washed off.
 Matt even found some "gold!"
 Chloe found a pretty rock, too!
 Uncle Mark even let Matt drive on the way back.
 What a fun ride!
 Here, Luke, Chloe, and Ian pretend to drive Uncle Mark's fishing boat ...
 ... and pretend to drive the jet ski.
 After a yummy lunch, Ian was pretty excited about going fishing. Uncle Mark helped get the worm on the hook, and Aunt Kathy showed Ian the fishing technique. What patient teachers!
 Chloe and Ian wait patiently for a bite.
 Next, we took turns getting pulled in the innertube. Ian was a little tentative at first and said that the ride (even though we were going slowly) was "very bumpy!" He quickly adjusted ...

... and asked to go out again when it was Daddy's turn.
 I love Ian's hair in this picture. :)
 After the guys finished their ride, Matt went on a just-slightly-faster solo ride!
 Then, Chloe and Ian wanted a turn just the two of them.
 This picture cracks me up ... Chloe wanted to go faster while Ian wanted to go slower. :)
 Here, they both look pretty happy! :)
 Then, we went out on Uncle Mark's jet ski. He's a great driver and took us on lots of fun twists and turns. Matt went out on his own a little later.
 Then, we went swimming in their condo pool and enjoyed a fabulous dinner together before heading back to Jefferson City. Ian was literally asleep before we left the condo parking lot. What a busy day.

Thank you, Uncle Mark and Aunt Kathy, for your gracious hospitality. You knew just how to make a little boy's day! We all four enjoyed our time on the water and catching up with you! So nice to see your beautiful family, too, Laura!