Rocks, Sticks, Leaves and… FaceTime

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I love this time of year. A friend in college looked forward to fall all year long, and I remember asking him why. “Because it’s football season!” he said.

Not me. This is all about the weather.

It finally gets pleasant to be outside. The bugs mostly go away. The nights are crisp, with the smell of warm leaves baking in the sun.

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We spend a lot of time out in the yard. The baby can’t get enough of picking each leaf, stick and rock up and shoving it into her mouth.

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And, it’s even better when you can FaceTime with grandma and grandpa and tell them about it.

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Art Deco in Tulsa

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This summer we did something I’ve long wanted to do in Tulsa: take an architectural tour of the downtown deco area.

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The Tulsa Historical Society offers a walking tour… on Friday morning. Not helpful for people with actual jobs.

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So we did it our way. We found a self-guided tour online and dragged along the iPad.

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My handsome tour guide was in charge of navigating us to each spot and reading the building description.

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The bummer about doing the tour on a Saturday (and now why I totally get that they do the tours on a weekday) is that the lobbies of the buildings, featuring the same spectacular type of detail as the facades, aren’t open.

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Never fear, however, we pressed our greasy noses up against many a plate glass window.

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Near the end, there came a moment when we tried a door lobby, and it was actually open! Great! We went inside, inspected the described details of tile and brass, sucked in the cool, conditioned air, then turned to leave.

Except… the door was … locked?

I pulled. And rattled. My husband tried. We exchanged a look. Would we be sleeping here? As he pulled and pulled some more, panic started to rise in my throat as I imagined being stuck in an office building lobby all weekend. What about the kids? Would the babysitter keep them? Could she send someone to help?

And then I gave the door one more tug, and it popped open. Crisis averted.

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The lobby that I feared I’d have to sleep in.

Our first stop was the Mayo Hotel and Topeca Coffee. The seed-to-cup family-owned spot set on vintage tiles provided fuel for the afternoon’s venture.

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How many feet have trod these tiles?

Then we meandered up and down the blocks, reading the descriptions of the buildings fueled by oil barons’ dollars.

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Many buildings had initials or other significant personal details embedded in their facades – a permanent testament to either the owner or his ego.

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The detail on these buildings is simply incredible.

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After a few hours walking, finally, it was back to the Mayo for a swing by up to their rooftop bar at sunset.

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The ride in the vintage elevator is always fun. My worst fear ever, probably, (more than getting stuck in a lobby) is to get stuck in an elevator. One time, my dad got stuck in an elevator when the power went off… in AFGHANISTAN. Talk about a place where you’d never want to be stuck… he was there for 10 minutes before the power was restored. Man, in those 10 minutes, I’d be in a full-on panic mode.

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Upstairs, the cooling summer air made it the perfect spot for relaxing on the outdoor patio.

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From there, you have expansive views of the Arkansas River and downtown Tulsa.

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It was the perfect place to end our day of exploring.

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Downtown deco tour: done. Check one more off the life list… and add about 17 more.

Kiddie Park

I really thought I’d talked about Kiddie Park before, either here or here, but I guess I haven’t. But I guess I haven’t.

Every summer, there’s a magical village that opens in a park in town. The name is totally silly, and it’s nothing fancy, but for the 1-6 set, it’s perfect. Kiddie Park is filled with pint-sized carnival rides with a 1950s vintage. The word around town is that these type of parks were popular all over the U.S. in the post-war period, but that in time, along with drive-in theaters, most have gone under.

But not ours. Every summer and a few other special times during the year, the park is open. It’s staffed by high school students who usually appear pretty miserable to be standing in the heat for hours on end, but they’re also usually pretty sweet with lifting kids up into rides and buckling them in. It’s a summer job, I guess. For all the years we’ve lived here, rides have gone for 25 cents a pop – a price for entertainment that can’t be beat. This year, they raised it. To a whopping 50 cents apiece. I think we can handle it.

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(How cute was he here two years ago at Halloween?)

We’ve visited Kiddie Park lots over the past four years, but this is the first year that this sweet kids really got it and enjoyed it. No crying on the rides, confidently running to the next ride he wanted to go on. Nearly every visit starts with a trip on the cars.

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These cute little vehicles are all custom painted in various color schemes. I think local auto shops donate their services.

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The cars are a perfect starter ride because they don’t go to fast. And, the little guy can pretend he’s steering as they roll around in a circle. For two minutes. Which the workers time on a kitchen timer while they sip their drinks and act bored.

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A new favorite are these mini semi-trucks that go around on a tiny track.

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This year, little sister is there watching every move, but not quite big enough to go on any rides. Next year will be double the price for us!

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Last year we made a fun discovery.

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These World War Two era planes spin around, but they also rise up if you pull on the stick.

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Last year we’d be screaming and screaming at the kid to pull the stick to go up and he sometimes couldn’t quite figure it out. This year, he’d pull up right from the beginning, and stay up, grinning like a cat that swallowed a canary.

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They remind me of the Flying Ace.

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This one can’t wait to be next.

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The roller coaster is not a favorite.

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That’s his friend Brody and his sister. His sister wasn’t a fan, either.

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The motorboats are also a favorite, especially when he can ride with his buddies and ring the bell.

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So that’s the town Kiddie Park! Cheap thrills and big smiles all around.

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Gone Fishing

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This kiddo turns four this week. We had to celebrate, so I turned to one of his recent loves to build a theme around: gummy worms. Or, as the little guy calls them, gummy snakes.

I’m not one of those go all out types of pinterest moms, but I wanted the kids to have some fun, hands-on activities.

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Saturday morning found these guys out in the garage, making fishing poles out of leftover wooden dowels from when my husband made our nephew a crib many moons ago. Aren’t they so cute sanding together?

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The fishing was a hit.

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I cut out fish shapes, added stick on magnets to the fish mouths, and the fishing poles were equipped with washers on the end.

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There were also blue balloons in the pool for water, but of course, those immediately blew away and popped as soon as we got outside. Oh. Well. They liked it.

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I have beautiful friends, no?

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The baby just got passed around like a party favor, and she loved it.

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Next, we had “fishing for treasure” a.k.a. digging through spaghetti noodles to locate trinkets hidden therein.

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This was a surprise hit with the kids.

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(Not sure WHAT was happening here, but it was too funny not to include.)

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I oiled the noodles so they’d slide past each other and not stick, and now I’m left with the party souvenir of sweet, oily hand prints all over my backdoor. Live and learn.

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And for our last act: la piñata.

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This guy took multiple swings from everybody in order to give up it’s candy. But at least a good time was had by all.

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These four kids were all born within four months of each other, and we’ve had fun watching them grow up together.

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At least, it was time to head inside for the goodies.

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We had goldfish, fishing rods, jelly fish sandwiches and bologna fish sandwiches.

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Of course there was cake.

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Dark chocolate, vanilla bean butter cream six-layer cake with gummy worms.

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Making the cake is my favorite part of the whole process.

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And how annoyed am I that I didn’t ask them to turn the cake around for the photo? Oh well.

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It was almost more frosting than cake… just how I like it.

And this guy, is four!

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Arches, Fountains and Ferrets

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Good thing I waited until St. Louis (ok, Ferguson) was in the news to post this. Now you have some context. The night we arrived was actually the night Michael Brown was shot. But this is not a post about race relations in Missouri.

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This summer our little get-away was to St. Louis to see my sister and her family as well as my parents. We went to see the arch, but while I would have liked to experience the assent and see the view, there was no way I waiting in what looked to be a super long line just to cram myself in a tiny elevator. Instead, thanks to my elementary school teacher mom, we learned that the arch is called the Gateway to the West, that it symbolizes America’s expansion beyond the Mississippi River and that it’s the tallest monument in the country. Tour, done.

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Instead, we wandered around the grounds and refereed preschooler spats.

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My dad got the crazies to scream as loud as their little lungs allowed, while passersby gave us pitying looks.

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And the baby conked out on her grandma.

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With four little people who still nap midday, we took things easy and just enjoyed family time.

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Or, looking kind of bored time.

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But the kids had fun, finding joy in every little thing, as kids do.

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This was post a trip to the donut store. Which, I have to say, World Fair Donuts did not deliver.

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That better not be DONUT crumbs on my seven-month-old’s face, DAD!

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This fountain in one of the parks near our condo was a hit.

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We went there twice in three days.

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This little girl has a thing about dipping her hair in the water.

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It was conveniently located adjoining two playgrounds.

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My dad was the king of the tire twisty swing, which one of these boys was not terribly fond of.

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Even my mom got in on that action.

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That, my friends, is one fit and fine grandma.

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The next day, we hit the zoo, which is very awesomely free, and actually a super nice zoo. Since it was free, we didn’t feel terrible that we walked around for just a couple of hours before heading home for naps. And it was very nicely laid out with plenty of shade, so we weren’t miserable even though it was in the 90s.

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And while we did see a lot of the animals out and about because they were breakfasting in the cool of the morning, there was a lot of monkeying around by the three walkers.

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There was walking through tree trunks,

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hiding in holes,

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and general tree-climbing nonsense.

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And after a nice lunch of Persian food in our neighborhood, apparently I got tired of lugging my camera around.

We also hit up The Magic House, which is labeled as a children’s museum, but is really a huge pile of little kid awesome place. There’s basically every kind of interactive, developmental, learning and exploring tool ever made crammed into an old Victorian with multiple add-ons. We definitely could have stayed all day, had our fear of napless monsters been overcome. We were there at least three hours, and covered maybe a third of that place. For our kids, it was absolutely perfect.

The other place we ran out of time to try was The City. Maybe next time, with slightly bigger kids.

All in all, a successful adventure. The icing on the top was our Airbnb rental, which really became a home away from home.

Have you ever been to St. Louis? Did we miss anything key?

St. Louis Snaps

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We took a quick road trip last week: 6 hours to St. Louis.

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I was dreading the long drive, but the kids did great. They were so excited to see the main reason for the trip: their cousins. (Ok, the baby really had no idea what was happening. It was just one really excited 3-year-old back there.)

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That magic thumb put Thumbelina right to sleep.

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Grandma and Grandpa, upon hearing that 4 out of 4 grandkids would be in the same location, couldn’t book tickets and clear their schedules fast enough. In fact, my dad ended up leaving Minneapolis Friday evening, arriving home at 1 a.m., then turned around at 4 a.m. to hop the flight to St. Louis with my mom.

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And he wasn’t even that grouchy. Probably because of donuts… and these cuties.

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These three really enjoyed each other. When they weren’t bickering; but hey, they’re at that age. Tonight my little guy told me he wants to go back to St. Louis… to play with his cousins.
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I had to remind him they don’t even live there! We’ll have to meet them somewhere else next time.

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It was so good to be all together, even when the kids were cranky. (But I’m thankful I don’t have to sleep in a room next to my dad, aka the Snoring Grizzly, anymore.)

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