FIELD TRIP : : LINCOLN MUSEUM

We got our first field trip of 2018 taken care of last week!

The girls spent quite a bit of time last fall learning about Abraham Lincoln. A subject they requested. We finally had some time to breathe and decided to fill that breath with a treck to Illinois.

My friend from high school, Ven, and her boys joined us. So grateful for the company and conversation!!

This girl, agh! She soaked every bit up. She was so happy to be in this place.

Zack and I brought her here when she was a year and a half old, or so. She obviously didn’t remember a thing, but it was so nice from my perspective seeing her observe everything this time around. Grasping the importance of his accomplishments.

With the exception of the logs she sat on, Rae looked at everything with her eyes not her hands! Such a hard task for a five-year-old.

^ Just look at her!! Inspecting every inch.

KILLS. ME.

Rae strolled through at a brisk pace…until she got here. She stared at Abe for a good long while, as I stared at her for a good long while.

Above: an outhouse with THREE toilets. All at different heights! You know you’ve made it when…

We toured Lincoln’s home. It’s just down the road from the museum -and its free! His tomb is free also but it was raining and getting cold, so we skipped that.

His home still has some original things in it. Doors, a toilet, wallpaper in one of the rooms, and the banister. Oh, that beautiful banister.

Now, between Lincoln’s stories of loss and achievement, the slaves’ own stories and watching my girls experiencing it all, I got tear boulders lodged in my ducts quite a few times throughout the day – BUT none quite so large as the ones brought about by that generically crafted banister.

As we neared the portion of the home tour where it was time to head on upstairs, the guide mentioned that the banister was original to the home.

“It’s as close to shaking the hand of Abe Lincoln himself as you can get!” 

I could see Mae hold her breath. Her smile grew and her gaze made it over to mine. I knew what she was thinking. Boulders began to form.

As we rounded the corner into the foyer, her eyes grew. I made sure to walk behind her. She slowly raised her hand, making sure to never take her eyes off the banister. She slowly walked up the staircase. I knew she was imagining Abraham Lincoln walking up those very steps holding onto that very banister. She was in heaven. As a result, I was too.

Before heading to my mother-in-law’s for the night. We braved the great ice storm of 2018 (apparently it’s not too early in the year to proclaim such a thing), and enjoyed a “fancy meal” at McAllister’s together. Just me and my ‘gails’.

As we waited for our fancy food to arrive, we received several texts and calls from people making sure we were still alive. We were. As we made the five-minute journey to Shari’s we saw no ice and had the roads all to ourselves. Not a bad way to end the day!

– Mae (on the left) is holding her face like that for the photo. I held the phone up for a ridiculous length of time to see how long she’d hold it. She didn’t budge. Definitely, her Daddy’s girl…

“ENVENTURING”

Anytime they’re outside Mae calls it adventuring, or “enventuring.” Today we went enventuring.

The girls discovered it was warm again today (When will it get cold??). They packed their backpacks with notebooks, snacks, water bottles, and tupperware for “collecting nature,” then ran up to me and shouted, “Can we go to the park!?” Who could say no…

We lasted at the table just long enough to unpack everything they brought, ooh and ahh at the view, and eat one apple and one orange. Then, Momma got cold so we had to move along into the woods. My favorite part.

Ugh. That smile says it all, doesn’t it? She is at her best out of doors.

Really, who isn’t?

Rae yelled, “Poison Ivy!” at each green thing we passed. It’s not that warm here…

She also stole some moss from the State Park. Oops. It was a gift for me since moss is my favorite (and we didn’t get caught!), so, I’m gonna let it slide.

We didn’t’ find any antlers, cool rocks, bugs, or mushrooms, but as you can see, they didn’t seem to care.

Notice Rae’s backpack bum? We laughed pretty hard about that throughout our hike.

Contraband.

Hope its warm tomorrow so we can do this all over again. AND! since I’m apparently a whimp, I’ll bring a bigger coat so they can stay longer without having to hear Momma gripe.

THE COMPASSION EXPERIENCE

Zack and I have sponsored the same boy for 12 years now, through Compassion. I can’t say enough good things about them. Honestly, I can’t think of a bad thing to say.

Compassion has sent an “experience” around the country and thankfully ended up five minutes from my mother-in-law’s house (a couple hours from our home). I decided to take the girls there to give them a look into the lives of far less fortunate kids from around the world.

We often have discussions about what it is like for others in the world and how great we have it here in the states (even our poor and homeless), but this took it to a new level for them, which was the intention.

So, you wear headphones that are connected to an iPhone. There are narrations which guide you through each story – one room equals one part of their life’s story. They have a kids version with fewer sound effects and a toned down bit for gory situations. I’m glad we opted for that with the girls.

We learned about a girl (now a woman) from the Philippines, and a boy (now a man) from Kenya. The girls and I both agreed that the story of the girl, Kiwi, will stick with us.

The rooms were set up as authentically as possible (I think they did a great job!).

Of course, we didn’t experience the smells that come with poverty, floods, etc. or feel the deep fear children experience in these situations. We didn’t have rain pouring down on us through the sags of tarp roofs or holes in the tin roof. We didn’t feel the pit of starvation or feel hopeless about what our night or our tomorrow will be.

We did get to have deep meaningful, enlightening conversions on our long drive home, we do have fresh daily outlooks of the blessing we’ve been given each day, and we will remember those less fortunate in our prayers. It’s easy to get focused on only what is close to home when we pray. We don’t need a name or a face to pray for someone across the globe…or those in our own town we’ve never met who are living in crippling conditions.

So glad we didn’t back out, save the gas and spare ourselves the long hours on the road.

CHRISTMAS RECITAL 2017

Mae had her third ever recital this past Monday night. She has expressed a dream of being on stage from the time she was two. She has never once been nervous before a show. So grateful it has not only become a reality but that she is pretty dadgum terrific.

She makes our dirty ol’ porch look mighty classy, don’t she? Untied laces and all.

Seriously. These two. This will surely be, forever, one of my favorite photos.

We made our traditional trip to the neighbors to show off the incredible costume.

Of course, Rae was being a crumbum.

For all of Mae’s recitals, Rae has been a not so nice human being. A real so-and-so. Supportive right up until the moment she realizes she’ll have to sit still (and, God forbid, remain quiet!) for the next 45 minutes.

Thankfully, it didn’t bring Mae’s spirits down!

Another tradition – post-recital meal at Lee’s! She doesn’t like chicken (or any kind of meat), but she does like hot apples and honey on a warm roll!

So excited to see what she has for us next spring!!

DEAR MAE & RAE : CHRISTMAS EDITION

This month has been the greatest!! You are both now fully able (and willing) to enjoy all that comes with the Christmas season.

For your birthday’s this year, you both wanted to spend any money you received on each other. For Christmas, it seems you have plenty of thoughts on what you’d like for yourselves. However, you both did great choosing the perfect items to gift each other. So grateful I get to live right smack dab in the middle of your relationship. The nosy, opinionated third wheel.

You are both able to bake cookies from scratch. Mae even knows how to set the oven correctly. Rae, at this point, you don’t get to mix cookie dough – sorry, Babe. You tend to stick your hands in at every stage…even the slimy ones. BUT! you can help once the dough is fully mixed!

You each jump at the chance to take charge of our daily advent lesson. Thankfully taking turns between two isn’t so bad. Four sentences in and Rae has made her way to the piano and is playing Mary had a Little Lamb above Momma’s words. Never fails. Sitting still for minutes at a time is hard.

You both take full advantage of having so many occasions to ‘get fancy.’ Dresses, tights, skirts, clicky shoes, broaches (yes, you both totally adored broaches), nail polish, hair spray, cheek sparkles, ear muffs, and peacoats – BRING IT!

I have tried to mix up our Christmas music as much as possible – without wandering into current pop renditions – and so far, ya’ll aren’t even a “tweensy” bit sick of the merriment.  I need a break now and again – so thanks for smiling through the detours.

The two of you sang a duet at church for the Festival of Talents. A talent show where kids could show off the gifts the Lord has given them. Ya’ll sang Jingle Bells. The entire thing. It was so good! No one paused to remember words, cried, ran off stage or even developed rosy nervous cheeks like Momma surely would’ve. While you both have so many talents, I’m glad you chose this one. It got you, Rae, out of your comfort zone (singing out loud on stage in front of several people!) and allowed the two of you to grow and work together for the Lord.

We have gifts under the tree (yours for each other), and the stockings are full. Thanks for not peeking!

Right now, I’ve got to slap some lipstick on your face, Mae, as we’re nearly out the door for your Christmas Recital!

THANKSGIVING 2017

Thanksgiving. Mmmm, boy.

This past month, the girls and I tediously studied the who, whys, and hows behind our Thanksgiving celebrations here in America. I feel like we earned our platter-sized plate of food. Probably my favorite Thanksgiving meal of all time. Had there been ham and feijoada in the mix, it would’ve been perfection!

The girls adored spending time with their cousins. They ran all over that house giggling at very unnatural octaves and even did some caroling (at normal octaves)- until they noticed we were watching them.

Our second visit involved my side of the family. Boy cousins play very differently, hah!

Our annual-when-we’re-in-the-area post-meal walk was so so great. Perfect fall weather, gorgeous sunset, sweet dog tagging along, and not a single child got tired halfway through forcing us to lug them back to the house on our hip.

 

RAE’S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION

We celebrated Rae’s birthday in quite a few ways, all simple and quiet, over a few days time. She couldn’t think of a single activity she wanted to do for her birthday. I’m sure she would’ve enjoyed a movie at the theater, but there wasn’t anything good out. She was hoping for Paddington 2, but no such luck.

SO! My mother-in-law came for a visit with gifts in tow and we had a quiet day together at the house. We got her gifts as well since she didn’t pick an activity.

She received Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig toys, as well as a C-3PO (“Sweepio”) figurine.

The girls jumped right in and began playing and coloring in her Paw Patrol books and playing with the Peppa Pig toys. Mae graciously dealt with the pesky packaging.

It was a perfect fall day out. Rae opted for snuggles with Grandma on the deck instead of taking a nap. I’m sure Grandma appreciated this moment.

My mom sent this card (along with $$!) She slept with it and carried it around for a few days.

Her school gave her a crown and sang to her. – and she didn’t cry at the attention!

On her actual birthday, the girls watched Troll Hunters by the fire – per her request.

We still did a bit of school work, but she doesn’t do much at home on pre-school days. Since it was her birthday, she really just had to listen to Mae’s lesson and skipped the work accompanying it, but she still chimed in with plenty of questions.

She received a package from Grandma Dee, “DeeDee,” on her actual birthday as well. Couldn’t have timed it better!

 

STEVENS WEEK : : PART FIVE

Zack took off work on their last day with us. We decided to take them canoeing since it’s one of our favorite hobbies. We were all pretty excited, but the girls’ anticipation rivaled the adults’ and kept us all in good spirits as we froze our buns off.

Those of us in kayaks became drenched with ice water with each paddle of our oars. Thankfully the kids were in the canoe with Zack, safe and dry with an endless supply of snacks.

By the end of our trip (our shortest time on the river, ever!), our hands and feet were pretty well thawed out.  – This was all my fault. I assumed it would warm up as it does in the summer. It did not. I should’ve dressed for autumn, not mid-July…

Afterwards, we headed home to card games by the fire. Another one of our favorite ways to pass the time.

They taught us Kings in the Corner, and we taught them Speed and Settlers of Catan. Cendi beat Jonathan in Speed, and he whooped us all in Settlers.

Best four days we could’ve hoped for! Thanks for traveling a billion miles to see us!!!

STEVENS WEEK : : PART FOUR

The science center (part of Forest Park) was closed on Saturday when we attempted to tour it, so on Monday, we ditched our plans to visit our local park and have an overall lazy day and drove back to St. Louis to see what the Science Center had to offer.

It did not disappoint, and in fact was probably my favorite part of the week. Had Zack been there it would’ve definitely been my favorite part!

There was a station where you controlled ^ this Rover and its camera. So fun!

All of our girls adore Star Wars! Rae was so giddy when she discovered this case full of memorabilia.

It would take 275,000 US dollars to send her tiny hiney to outer space. She would love to travel into space.

Watching the cars driving under the walkway.

Ah, nerd wit.

This construction scoop “game” was out of order, but there were plenty of other cool things for the kids to try. One of which was an earthquake simulation station. Pretty neat.

We all learned a bit about dinosaurs. They even had fossils we were able to examine, which the workers dug up on a trip to Montana.

Elevators with windows. Enough said?

They had such cool little – for lack of a better word – stations where we could see how things work. The energy in our homes, how much energy our bodies conduct (the kids’ energy was off the chart. The adults, not so much – no surprise there…), petal power, wind power, electric car versus gas powered, etc.

They had added on a farm area since the last time we visited. The even had live chickens there. My girls love all things farm – livestock or produce, so I’m sure they’ll be eager to get back there.

Last but certainly not least, a photo of Eisliegh and Mae “twinning” from head to toe. Could they be any cooler??

STEVENS WEEK : : PART THREE

Sunday, after church, we visited a local pumpkin patch.

Rae was sad about the possibility of us making her ride the zip line. Silly.

She climbed the little rock wall up to the window. Such joy in her accomplishment. That smile is everything.

These children are fearless. They just hopped up on the giant hay bales and jumped around without a care.

The corn. Oh, boy. So much corn went home in their britches.

It wasn’t cold or rainy the entire time they were here. Missouri was putting on quite the show for this sweet family! Thanks for bringing some Alabama warmth with you, and for helping us create such happy memories!