Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Six Pack of Boys

Left to Right: Mac, Eric, Jeffrey, John, and (in front) Ethan and Bobby
One of the highlights of our Arizona trip was getting to visit with my friend, Eileen and her four boys. I met Eileen several years ago when we were both flight attendants for TWA. We met commuting between St. Louis where we were based, and Phoenix where we lived; we were instant friends.

During our long flights in between the two cities we discovered that we had many things in common, one being our birthday, and others such as baking and crafting.

We started a tradition of going to tea to celebrate our birthdays, and this is how my love for tea and tea parties blossomed. Even though we haven't lived in the same city for eleven years, we still manage to remain close and, yes, go to tea on occasion - even if it's not our birthday.

Although the kids and I visit Arizona frequently, sometimes it's difficult to meet up with Eileen. She lives about 45 minutes away from my parents, and during the school year she's just as busy as any other mother - driving her four boys to and from school and extra curricular activities. I do however, get to see her parents just about every visit because they live across the street from mine.

We introduced our parents several years ago and her parents who were living in New Hampshire at the time, fell in love with my parents' neighborhood. They bought the house across the street and became, what Phoenicians call, "snowbirds." They spend their winters in Arizona and the summers in New Hampshire.

Our parents became fast friends, especially our fathers. Eileen's dad comes over to my parents' house every morning for coffee, along with several other of my parents' neighbors. When my parents are up and the coffee is made, they open their garage door to signal the neighbors that they are up and ready to receive their guests. This tradition happens every morning. Most of my parents' neighbors are "snowbirds" so in the summertime there aren't as many coffee drinkers sitting around the table as there are in the winter months, but even so the sense of community is still present.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ethan's Birthday

While we were in Arizona my parents and sister hosted a birthday party for Ethan. We invited all of his Arizona cousins, on both sides of the family and Ethan was very excited that most of them could attend.
The theme was a "pool" birthday party and my sister, Kristin hosted the event at her house. It was very hot the entire week that we were in AZ with the temps reaching 112 and above so being able swim helped to keep everyone a little cooler.

Grandma made Ethan a birthday cake according to his specifications - a round chocolate cake and chocolate icing with chocolate chips. And to Ethan's delight, she also added a few of her own embellishments.
Grandma even bought a pinata for the party which was a big hit with all the kids.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Pretty Baby

Yesterday we spent the day with my niece, Madelyn. She's changed quite a bit since we've last seen her, and has developed a cute little personality. She smiles all the time, and was unusually tolerant of having my camera shoved in her face for the better part of the afternoon.

Madelyn 4 Months Old

Reminiscing at a Dance Recital

Last night we attended my niece's dance recital. She looked adorable in her feathery pink costume. Her performance was darling and comical at the same time. One of the little girls lost her tap shoe early on and wasn't sure what to do with it. Although I might be biased, I definitely think Olivia was the best dancer of the group.
Yes the evening did bring back memories of the 9 plus years that I spent taking tap and ballet lessons as a child, and all the recitals and competitions. However, the most nostalgic part was that the recital was preformed in my former high school auditorium.
It felt strange returning to my old high school alma mater, especially after being absent for 20 some years. It looked mostly the same, unchanged by the thousands of students that came after me. The auditorium, the cafeteria, the football field, were all still there, taking me back in time, and making me feel as though I was 16 again.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Birthday Crown of Peanuts

Today is Ethan's 8th birthday and this morning we left for Arizona. On our flight out west the flight attendants made Ethan a crown of peanuts in celebration of his birthday. They made an announcement on the PA and I think that was the first time Ethan's ever had over a hundred people wish him Happy Birthday all at the same time.
The crown is very clever and in the 13 plus years that I've been employed by SWA, I've never seen anyone make one before. I've made birthday cakes out of rolls of toilet paper but never a crown of peanuts. There's only so many resources that you have at 40,000 feet and this was one of the most clever ideas I've seen. The bags of peanuts are held together with stir sticks.

Needless to say, Ethan loved the crown and all the attention that was bestowed upon him.

Happy Birthday, Ethan!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Knight in Shining Cardboard

Ah, the lazy days of summer! I don't have to worry about summer boredom at my house. We love the summer and welcome the unstructured days of no homework. The kids love the extra time and freedom to create and play. Their favorite thing to do is to rummage through the recycling bin to see what treasures they can make. On this particular afternoon, Ethan worked diligently cutting and taping (lots of taping) these boxes together. The end result was this coat of armor complete with (designer) shield and face mask - definitely worthy of a picture and a post.

Teacup Planter

Imagine my delight when Steph showed up at my doorstep with this adorable teacup planter! As you can see it has been put to good use and is sitting on my deck. I think it's the cutest thing I've ever seen and I just had to share a picture! Thank you! I love it!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Day Three - City Museum

We spent day three at the City Museum in St. Louis. The boys and I had never been there but several of our Bloomington friends recommended that we go.

The City Museum is something that you have to experience. It's impossible to describe with just words and pictures alone. I spent a good amount of my time there in awe of this creative Bohemian playground. Click here to read more about the museum's attractions and click here to take a photo tour.

The artist and his crew constructed the museum using salvaged things from the city, such as bridges, cranes, building materials even airplanes. The building itself used to be an old shoe factory and you can slide down an old shoe shoot which is five stories high.

Outside is Monstro City which looks exactly how it sounds....monstrous! Feet upon feet of wrought iron and giant slinky-type structures to climb in and though, several stories above ground. Also outside are two huge ball pits which were a bit hit with the boys.

Deep within the museum are the Enchanted Caves. Here you can crawl and climb through holes and tunnels, some which are very dark and confined. Some so dark that you can't tell where they lead, and I suggest bringing a flashlight along for this adventure. Too scary for me but the boys loved it!

If you're visiting the St. Louis area, the City Museum is a must! You can easily spend an entire day there. We are looking forward to being able to visit again, we can't wait to go back!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Day Two - Botanical Gardens and Zoo

Japanese Garden

It's been a few years since I have visited the Missouri Botanical Garden, and I don't think I've ever seen it so beautiful. Maybe it was all the Niki sculptures or the Chihuly glass works, whatever the case, it was a beautiful day in the garden.

Scattered throughout the garden were beautiful Niki mosaic sculptures. I have never seen such stunning mosaics. They added such an incredible element to our garden walk. Below are a few pictures that don't even come close to capturing the artistic beauty of the sculptures.

If you look closely enough you can see the kids' arms sticking out of the teeth.

The fist stop on the kids' list was the maze in the Victorian Gardens. They had a fun time trying to find their way out. If Amy wouldn't have given them some clues, they might have been stuck in there all day.

Here are just a sprinkling of the flowers that we spotted along our walk.Aside from the pretty irises, peonies, and Niki sculptures, we also enjoyed the Dale Chihuly glass works. These incredibly colorful pieces of art were breathtaking. I can't even imagine how difficult it must be to assemble some of these pieces. Below are some pictures and here you can watch a short video of the artist and his exhibition at the Missouri Botanical Garden..After our fantastic morning at the botanical gardens, we headed to the St. Louis Zoo. I don't know what we were thinking when planned to visit two attractions that required lots and lots of walking in one day. But it all worked out very well because the weather was moderate, not too hot and humid, and it was wonderful to be outside.

Although I have a ton of zoo pictures, some of which the boys took, I decided not to bore you with those. Except for a couple of pictures of the kids with a cobra. Not a real cobra a cobra statue. These pictures are memorable because the cobra was the cause of the first melt down of the trip. I don't know exactly what happened but it involved Ethan and taking his picture. In fact we had to travel back to the cobra just to take another picture of Ethan and the cobra. Did I mention that it was just a STATUE!

Picture One - Notice that Ethan is hiding behind Mac. He's mad and hiding.Picture Two - if you know Ethan, his face says it all. He's now in the picture but still mad.

Picture three - Ethan's starting to recover from his melt-down and finally takes a "happy" picture. You can tell by Grayson's expression that he's just about at his limit of taking pictures with the stupid cobra.

Aside from the little cobra incident, it was a very fun day. And the good thing about the St. Louis Zoo is that it's free! So you won't feel bad if you're too tired to walk another inch and just want to go home, even though you haven't seen it all.

"Schools Out" Vacation - Part One - St. Charles

The boys in front of the Missouri River

As a way to celebrate the last day of school, we took a little trip to St. Louis with our friends. I have been to St. Louis many times and always have a great time there, and this trip was no exception. Because I have so many pictures to share I'm going to break this post into three parts. Part One - St. Charles.

Grayson, Ethan, Mac, Louis, Clark and Seaman the Dog

The first stop along our journey was a visit to St. Charles. It was a beautiful day to be outside and we ventured down to Frontier Park which is situated along the Missouri River. There the boys were mesmerized by a cottonwood tree. We also checked out part of the Katy trail and the Louis and Clark monument.

Cottonwood Tree

Then we walked along Main street and went into a few shops. I dragged everyone to one shop in particular, The English Shop, where I was in search of German Kinder Surprise Eggs. Last time I was in St. Charles I bought some of these eggs in this store. The eggs have a yummy chocolate shell and then on the inside of the shell is a toy surprise that has to be assembled. We were all disappointed to learn that Kinder Surprise Eggs can longer be sold in the US due to safety concerns. I guess we'll have to take a trip to Germany if we want to buy more of those. What The English Shop lacks in chocolate eggs, they make up for in beautiful teapots, teacups and tea. Those alone are worth a visit!

The kids in front of the English Shop

After poking our heads into a few stores, a beautiful sculptured piano caught Mac's eye. Of course we wandered in to take a peek. The gallery owner was very cordial and to our surprise, invited the kids to touch the one-of-a-kind, sculptural Mason and Hamlin (with $100,000 price tag) piano, even play it. I wanted to take a picture but didn't. So as I'm writing this post I googled the gallery and found a picture. Not only did I find a picture, I also learned that the kind, patient and modest gallery owner was actually the artist, George Denninger. Three of his other sculptured pianos are now owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. I'm very impressed and wished I would have known this information while we were standing in his gallery talking to him, instead of after the fact.

This is George Denninger sculptured piano that the kids touched and played

We ended our afternoon in St. Charles, with what became our daily ritual, eating ice cream. Ah, life doesn't get much better than that!