Impromptu Nature Walk

When you get thrown gorgeous weather in September, you take advantage of it, so even though we were going to spend last Saturday cleaning and organizing, I talked everyone into going on some walks at a nearby Reserve!  It was one of my best ideas and despite some bug bites, I think everyone had a really good time.

We went to the nature center first to check in and get an idea of what was in the area, which led us to their outdoor play area.  We told the kids they could play for a while, but then we’d have lunch and do some exploring!

We were even joined by a little slug at one point!  It was fun just watching him creep along and then Enzo gave him some of his apple.

Have I mentioned that the day was beautiful?  Because the weather was amazing!  It was so nice to just leisurely stroll and see what kinds of fun things we could spot.  Enzo even saw a fish pop up to eat a bug when we stopped at one of the lake docks!

With so many different potential trails to go on, we chose one that had a boardwalk through a wetland area.  Considering we forgot bug spray, it probably wasn’t our greatest decision, but thankfully the mosquitoes haven’t been as bad this year as they usually are. We survived to tell the tale!

I was the one lagging behind for most of the day.  I am at my happiest in the woods, though, and I was soaking it in.  Plus, there were a lot of things to see!  Spider webs stretching across the trail over our heads, fungi and so many pretty flowers.

Now, this flower I thought for sure was a fungi, but it turns out it isn’t!  It seems to be most commonly known as Ghost Plant or Indian Pipe and is part of the blueberry family!  It looks so white because it has no chlorophyll and is a non-photosynthetic plant. Because it doesn’t photosynthesize, it’s basically a parasite that lives off of other plants like trees.  Anyway, it was the first time I had ever seen them and they really are kind of eerie growing in the darker shaded parts of wooded areas.

Just as we were headed on our way back to the nature center, we (or rather Josh) spotted a fantastic prairie area that we naturally just had to go explore. There was a breeze, and better yet, no mosquitoes, but it was nice to just see the prairie grasses wave in the wind and watch bees flit from blossom to blossom.

I’m pretty sure we’ll back.

Renaissance Festival Time… Again!

I know, wasn’t I just at the renaissance festival? Yes, it’s true, but this time I dragged Josh and the kids along wit me, and honestly? I could go again. There’s so much to see and with each weekend being a different theme there is always something new to see.  We all got dressed up and had a fairly decent time, all things considered.  The kids getting older, is such a huge plus and makes outings so much easier.  I think we may have to ditch the wagon next year, however, because they are outgrowing it and there were too many “She’s touching me” outbursts for my liking.  Truly, though, the kids had a magical time and I love seeing how kind everyone is to the kids.  Phoebe was so excited about seeing mermaids and Enzo, while not quite as enthusiastic about such ventures still managed to enjoy himself quite a lot.

We go to Fairy Forest every time. The kids rushed past the fairies this time… mostly because Phoebe really just wanted to wait in the very long line to see the mermaids. Haha!

We didn’t see any unicorns, but Phoebe found a unicorn horn that she just had to have.  I indulged because… hello? Unicorn horn?

We ran into so many nice people.  I think all of us had our photos taken by random people at least once, if not more for the kids. I love the overall atmosphere of the festival because everyone is generally just there to have a good time and indulge in some imaginative fun.  One girl (who didn’t work there) was dressed as Ariel from the Little Mermaid and she could not have been sweeter to Phoebe who recognized her and asked to say hello.  She gave her a big hug and it was so sweet!

You can see how excited Phoebe was to finally see the mermaids and more importantly, ask them their names.

Someone gave us the great idea of having Josh wait in line for the mermaids while I took the kids next door to play dress up… which they didn’t care about.  Tough customers, these ones.

The kids were intrigued, but a little nervous around the dragon. Enzo opted to stand back with Josh while I held Phoebe’s hand.

Josh and Enzo went on a swing ride – the one thing Enzo requested to do as we were walking around.

I tried to take photos with Phoebe while we waited for them, but she decided to be pouty. Ha!

The kids were getting tired, so we took Phoebe over to the elephants and Enzo and I tried to get a glimpse of the joust, but alas, there were too many people ahead of us and we couldn’t get a good spot to squeeze in as we were dragging the wagon with us.

All in all, a very good day.  We got in the car, drove to get ice cream and collapsed when we get home.

Don’t you love how both the boys have similar expressions, whereas Phoebe and I could have kept going?  So weird that Phoebe is so much like me and Enzo is so much like Josh.  Phoebe and I love our excursions and could generally be out of the house all day on a weekend, but the boys get tired and would rather play video games at home. Not this time, boys!

InnerActive Play Area

Last weekend the kids and I needed to get out of the house for a bit, so I had the brilliant idea to take them to an indoor play area so we could be out of the chill and also go earlier in the day. Everything is at least 30 minutes away from us, but most indoor play areas are further. Thankfully, however, a couple have popped up in that 30-40 minute range and so off we went!

Honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect at 10:30 on a Saturday morning, but my heart sank a bit when we drove up and the parking lot was packed.  I took a deep breath and warned the kids that a lot of other people were there.  We managed to find a cubby to put our things in and off we went to brave the play area and people. Immediately Enzo and I shared a look and he said, “There’s too many people, Mommy.”  Phoebe was not bothered, though, and took off running.  Even she had a few moments of panic, though, when she couldn’t spot me right away after getting off the slide.

We got used to the amount of people fairly quickly and to my pleasant surprise it started clearing out and the amount of noise and activity was more manageable.  We all were more comfortable and Enzo and Phoebe were all over.  It’s a pretty cool place too.

I didn’t get pictures of everything, but there’s a fairly large play area with slides and climbing toys as well as the favorite of both kids – the bouncy pillow. Both kids spent a lot of time on the slides and were having a blast.

Eventually I convinced the kids to take a break for snacks, which we had brought, and had to promise several times that we weren’t going to leave right away. For almost $8 a kid I had already decided we’d be here for a few hours. There wasn’t enough seating at actual tables, but we found a bench to sit at over by another play area that was for toddlers.  Then we had to go bounce on the bouncy pillow, which admittedly was a lot of fun. I was probably one of only 2 or 3 parents who was openly enjoying it.  There was also a big basketball court and a smaller soccer “field.”  Enzo was hooked on shooting baskets and got 5 while we were there. He was so proud of himself.

I have a feeling we’ll be going back there, especially whenever the temperatures drop.  They have monthly plans and yearly plans which is also nice, but I don’t think we’d be there often enough for one of those. Maybe if we lived a little closer.  For an un-staffed place, I was impressed at how clean it was and how involved parents were with their kids. Hardly anyone on their phones (except to take pictures) and everyone was respectful, which was a huge win for me.

Solitude on the Road

I’ve always loved going for drives in the car, mostly as the passenger, but I’ll gladly do the driving if it means being alone and recharging for a bit and possibly doing some exploring. One thing I miss from Colorado is that feeling of remoteness that I often had. I didn’t live in a big town or even that near a big city so it was very easy to drive a short distance and feel like there weren’t a lot of people around. It’s been a little more difficult to find that here nearer a big city without having to drive too far.  So, I had the idea to take day and do a lot of driving on a weekend and Josh said, why not stay the night somewhere so you don’t have to do all that driving in one day?  Sold!

I think everyone needs to be on their own at times, but as an introvert it’s a necessity for me.  I do often get quiet time each day, but it doesn’t always feel like enough, especially when one or both kids has trouble sleeping and that time is interrupted. Also, as much as I love the cats, Uzi has somehow become even clingier and the second I relax, he’s on my lap. There are times when I am just touched out – by kids, by cats, by everyone and everything and even my own skin feels like it’s too much. So, this time away was very much needed and overdue.  I drove… and drove… I think I spent about 10 hours in the car total?  I went with the intention of looking for birds and did find some, though, not as many as I had hoped.  I didn’t take any amazing photos, but I did find a very funny squirrel and most of all I found space to breathe deeply and in silence.

I mentioned in a previous blog post that I accidentally left my really warm clothes at home, so without my big hat and gloves I wasn’t able to do much of the wandering by foot I had wanted to do. It was around zero outside, and with just a light knit hat and gloves I didn’t want to wander too far.  The snow was crunchy so I managed to scare a deer or two and some other birds, but once I got farther away from a road (with barely any traffic) I just stopped and it was… perfect. I could hear birds even if I couldn’t see them, many of which I had never heard before.  I could hear the scurry of squirrels and what I imagine was another deer or two as the crunch of the snow was louder, but more delicate than my own trudging.  It was in that moment that I knew when we got our own cabin it has to be more remote. I need a place to recharge on a more regular basis.  I need my place, you know? Now if we can just find that perfect spot near a lake for Josh. Granted, my ideal place would be in the mountains, but I’ll take what I can get.

State Fair

We arrived at the State Fair and were greeted with the smell of animal poo mixed with the glorious smell of every deep-fried food imaginable, and thousands of people. We had made it a goal to see as many animals as possible – particularly of the squishy and cuddly variety and to try as many fair foods as we could stomach, which due to wallet constraints turned out to be fewer than I had hoped (fair food is seriously over-priced).

We started things out at The Miracle of Birth Center where we got tried to manuever our way through crowds to see baby cows a day old, lambs a few hours old, and piglets in the process of being born, while a growing crowd waited to watch a cow who was supposed to give birth at some point during the day.

 

We then squeezed our way out and went to check out the bunnies, which was thankfully much less crowded, and boy were there ever a lot of bunnies – row upon row in fact. I think a part of me may have died from cuteness overload that day.

   

The horse barn was a bit difficult to navigate and many of the stalls were empty, or the horses were getting ready for various shows (we didn’t know what or where as we couldn’t get anyone to tell us). Talk about some huge horses!  The majority that we saw were Percherons, and they were a sight to behold. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such big horses, to be honest. (Granted, I haven’t been around that many horses). They really were stunning, though, even if we could only see many of their rear-ends.

 

We spent most of the day walking around and soon realized that it was going to be very difficult to find anywhere to sit down. Every available bench or table was in use, so we decided to head over to the colliseum and watch some cows get judged. As we looked around we wondered if other people were just there to get out of the sun as well, or if they actually knew what was going on, because we certainly didn’t. Cow judging is a lot like curling or Nascar or other sports that are boring to watch from the sidelines. I don’t know how or why I get drawn in, but the cow judging was the same way… granted, Josh and I had our own commentary going, which made it slightly more interesting.

 

I think it was shortly after that we decided to head home. We had had our fill of deep-fried twinkies and root beer floats, and struggling with crowds. I definitely did not enjoy the crowds – especially the high volume of rude shovers and pushers. Will we go again next year? Probably not, but now I can say I went.