Sunday, July 31, 2016

Schiele Museum

This is another long overdue post that's been in draft mode for two months. At the end of May I took the kids to the Schiele Museum for the afternoon. I'm posting today because several of my friends happened to share photos of their trips there this weekend. It's a great museum and one I grew up visiting. Here are a few silly moments and photos from our museum outing in May. Amelia was fired up this particular day (like most days) so prepare for a lot of Amelia anecodotes.

As soon as you walk in, you are greeted by this large dinosaur skeleton. Amelia kept walking around with her arms up, shouting, "So big! Roar!" The others sang, "We are the dinosaurs marching, marching."

We toured the space exhibit, though I didn't take any good pictures. Next, we spent time looking at the animals, both living and taxidermied.

I went to take a picture of the girls in front of the bears and Amelia shrieked, "Wait. I be right back!" as she rushed around the corner. She came back with a black bear puppet from the kids' area and proceeded to impersonate the stuffed bear.

Nearly half of the museum was closed due to renovations so we didn't spend as much time inside as usual. Once again, Amelia cracked me up when she said, "Hey, she has tails, too!" referring to the American Indian figure with pigtails.

I remember thinking at the time that it was hot outside, but that seems laughable right now in the heat of summer. The garden was in full bloom.

We admired the farm animals (sheep, pigs, and chickens) both near and far.

Some of us admired them more than others.

The outdoor exhibits also include a grist mill. Now that the kids are older, we were able to walk down a hill and wade in the creek.

Jackson cracked me up with his shoe selection. He went through a few weeks where he was obsessed with wearing these black dress up shoes. 

 Lastly, we played in the Stone Age exhibit before heading back to the van.

Despite the closed exhibits, it was a great afternoon at one of my favorite museums. I look forward to taking the kids to the planetarium in the future.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

High Country Day Trip

Yesterday we headed to the mountains for a much needed escape from the heat. (Who wouldn't choose temperatures in the mid-70's over upper 90's?) Our previous trips to the High Country have always included staying around Boone/Blowing Rock. This year we chose to explore the Linville Falls area instead.  While there were plenty of joyful moments throughout the day, they were outweighed by moments of frustration, exhaustion, and bitterness. 

We left immediately after breakfast and were on the road around 7:30 a.m. We arrived at our first stop, Linville Falls, by 10. Everyone was in good spirits and eager to begin our day of adventure. 

We utilized the wagon as much as we could. As the path became steeper, Jesse and I alternated the challenging task of pulling the 100+ lb wagon up the hills.

Eventually, we ditched the wagon behind some trees when the terrain became too rugged.

We arrived at the first overlook in great moods.

Unlike our last waterfall experience, you cannot wade or swim in any part of Linville Falls. The currents are far too fast.

Instead of playing in the water, we played on the rocks.

We continued onward, up a steeper incline to a different overlook. Jackson amused me when he picked up a dried up plant and exclaimed,"I found a fox tail!" We finished reading Fantastic Mr. Fox last week and there was a scene where the farmers shot off Mr. Fox's tail. The plant looked just like the illustration in the book.

By the time we reached the higher landing we were all tired, hungry, and thirsty. The overlook was more open (i.e. not toddler friendly) so we left quickly.

Jesse and I had been to Linville Falls together during college. For some reason our memory was different from the reality, especially when it came to picnic tables, bathrooms, and water fountains. Finding none of those things, we loaded up hungry, tired children and drove ten minutes to our next destination, Linville Caverns.

Jesse bought tickets while I started making PB&J sandwiches. Everyone was happy to eat and play.

James peed in his pants outside. Thankfully this was the one and only accident among the trio the entire day. We had brought several changes of clothes for the toddlers so it wasn't a big deal, though we were hyper aware and forced the kids to sit on the potty at every available opportunity.

I was so excited about going inside the cave! Jesse and I had visited the cavern in college, but that was ten years ago. I was mostly excited to see the kids' reactions. I just knew Jackson would love it because we're reading The BFG and the giant lives in a cave. Plus, Batman trained in a cave. It seemed like an obvious good time. Boy was I wrong! Jackson was a total brat the entire time, whining and throwing a little tantrum. He blocked the path, whimpered about water dripping on him, and complained the whole time. We so rarely pay for entertainment; the fact that he was ungrateful and we had invested money made me that much more frustrated.

Thank goodness the others enjoyed/tolerated their underground experience. Maddie was clingy as expected, but didn't cry.

Amelia was a true spelunker, trying to go ahead of the group with total confidence.

James stayed close by and loudly repeated random things the tour guide said. The only time the kids became upset was when the guide turned out all of the lights. Experiencing total darkness is an incredible, rare moment that the kids did not appreciate.

I was so over Jackson's attitude that I was ready to go home, despite it only being early afternoon. Jesse gave a come to Jesus talk to Jackson in the van. We agreed to proceed with original plans for Grandfather Mountain.

 All four kids were asleep in a matter of minutes. It was only a 25 minute drive but I wanted the kids to get a decent nap. I pulled over when I saw a random sign for a fresco at a church.  With the engine running, Jesse and I took turns getting out to see the fresco.

It was beautiful, but so high up that it was hard to see the details.

We continued the drive to Grandfather Mountain. Jackson woke up screaming as we were at the entrance. Thankfully, it didn't take long for the kids to get excited about the mountain.

I wanted to get a family picture before we walked across the swinging bridge. A stranger took this photo for me. She was taking more photos, but just as I tried to pull Maddie closer, Maddie flung herself the opposite way and tumbled down a few stairs. While it could have been scary, Jesse and I could both see she was fine and I immediately picked her up. However, one would assume I had murdered her based on the gasps of onlookers and our photographer. I guess they thought she was going to topple over the mountain. Thank God for small stone walls! I didn't attempt anymore family pictures.

Many people are scared of the bridge. I guess a mile high suspension bridge could be frightening to someone afraid of heights. No one in our family was remotely fazed. We walked across it multiple times.

Jesse took Jackson up on the high rocks across the other side of the bridge while I stayed behind with James, Amelia, and Maddie. Unfortunately he didn't have his phone so I don't have any photos of the boys. Here are some pictures of the trio and the gorgeous scenery.

Blessedly, our usual wind-fearing girl didn't freak out with the high winds. She was surprisingly content.

We descended the mountain. Jesse made fun of me for taking a picture of the road, but those curves are just unreal!

This was the point in the day when things began to unravel quickly. Grandfather Mountain is not cheap, so we wanted to make the most of our trip. The kids were tired of walking but they really wanted to see the bears. In order to persevere Jesse and I had to either pull a wagon, carry a child, or have a child on our shoulders. After doing the same thing for hours at the waterfalls and caverns, we were over it. We saw the bears.

and then we walked back to the van and left. There were plenty of other animals to see, but Jesse and I were both losing our patience. The kids had a snack in the van while we rode along the stunning viaduct. I had to refrain from stopping at every overlook to soak in the beauty of the mountains. Here's one particularly calming view of Price Lake.

Once we were down the mountain we stopped for dinner at Cookout. Our moods lifted greatly after stopping to eat and drink. Granted, we spent half of our time in the bathroom, but that's our new norm with potty training triplets.

The drive home was uneventful. The kids were strangely hyper and laughed a lot. It was already past the trio's bedtimes when we got home so we immediately got everyone ready for bed. While getting Jackson ready for bed, Amelia was eager to show us this photo in her Goodnight, North Carolina book. She showed us pictures of mountains, waterfalls, and the bridge.

It was by no means a relaxing trip, but I know we created family memories and the kids were able to make connections with everything they saw and did. Now we just need a day to recover!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

3 Year Well Check

Though the trio turned three two weeks ago, I completely forgot to schedule their well check until last week. Thankfully the Children's Clinic is quick to accommodate, even for three back-to-back appointments. We have been extremely fortunate because the only two appointments we've scheduled since their two-year well check was after James' smashed finger became infected and when Maddie's eczema got out of control. Other than a few runny noses, age two was a very healthy year for the trio.

Jesse volunteered to take James, Amelia, and Maddie to their two hour well check while I took Jackson and his cousin to the library, park, and splashpad. The rest of the post is told by Jesse:

"We went to the doctor. Maddie was immediately upset when the nurse called us back, but she was alright after that. The nurse weighed them as soon as we walked back. Amelia got on the scale first. Maddie didn't want to but she did. James kept kicking the scale so he had to sit in the baby scale. Here are their measurements:

James: 3 ft, 1.5 in, 33 lb, 4 oz (between 50th and 75th percentile for height and weight)
Amelia: 3 ft, 1.5 in, 32 lbs (between 50th and 75th percentile for height and weight)
Maddie: 2 ft, 11.5 in, 30 lbs (right under 50th percentile for height and weight)

Their vision test was next. They had to identify the shapes. According to the nurse they each had 20/32 vision.

The nurse had to take their blood pressure and brush their teeth, which everyone enjoyed. The nurse asked for a urine sample. The girls peed in the little potty and I poured it in the cup. James had already peed in his training underwear, so I couldn't get a sample from him. 

The doctor came in quickly. Maddie volunteered to go first, then James, and finally Amelia. It was a typical well check, examining eyes, ears, mouth, and breathing. She asked each of them to jump, squat, and count to three.

They left with lollipops, stickers, and a book."

Amelia spent the afternoon in her Doc McStuffins gear. The kids gave everyone imaginary check-ups.

I'm saying a prayer that age 3 is another year of great health! (This seems unlikely since all six of us will be in public school 8-9 hours a day, but a girl can hope.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Cousin Sleepover

We accomplished another item on our summer bucket list--having Jackson's cousin, Levi, over for 24 hours of fun. We started with a Terrific Tuesday show at the children's library uptown. The program this week was on African drumming. Based on the photos, it looks like an amazing experience. Honestly, it was mediocre at best. The leader attempted to call individual children to the stage in sets of a dozen, but children haphazardly rushed the stage, claiming a drum to play without being called. It was very frustrating for us front row rule followers. After several rounds without being called, the boys eventually received a coveted spot on a jimbay. Once the program ended, we checked out the Mr. Potato Head exhibit and trolley in the library.

Jesse and a friend were grabbing dinner then heading to a concert, so the kids and I were on our own for dinner, play, and bedtime. The kids devoured mac-n-cheese, chicken nuggets, green beans, watermelon, and ice cream. A quick storm blew past, temporarily eliminating the awful humidity. The kids entertained themselves with wagon races and climbing the playsets.

To make things easier for the older boys, I had the trio share a room. Maddie prefers sleeping on the floor, so James just slept in her bed. Jackson and Levi shared the bunk beds in the boys' room.

Our morning was insanely productive and busy. The brakes on the car have nearly given out. Anytime we press the brakes, it sounds like someone put a screw inside a pencil sharpener. Jesse bought a groupon for full brake services. We also had the trio's three year well check which we knew would take two hours. We drove both vehicles to the mechanic. Jesse dropped the boys and I off at Village Park, then took the trio to their well check.

It's so hot outside there's actually a heat advisory. We totally lucked out by being at the library during a scheduled summer activity. Kids ages 5-12 could participate in an indoor exercise class. There were stretches, warm ups, and very silly games. Our hour of structured games in the a/c was a fantastic way to pass the time.

Adjacent to this library is a playground and splash pad. By the time we had played and eaten a snack, Jesse called to say he and the trio were ready to pick us up. The seven of us took a train ride around the park before swinging by Little Caesar's for a late lunch.

We all spent the next few hours at home, attempting to have downtime. Our movie was abandoned as the kids had more fun playing upstairs. All seven of us rode together to drop Levi off at his house so we could pick up the car from the mechanic on the way home.

We've got another fun sleepover in the books!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Field Trips with Friends (May 19 and 24)

The last two weeks of May we joined a local mom group to tour a fire station and the regional airport. We've toured both places before, but it had been several months since visiting either place. Jackson was still in school when we went to the fire station. James, Amelia, and Maddie had mixed reviews. 

All was going well until a fireman began to suit up. They always do this during every tour, explaining that they want children to see a firefighter in gear. The point is for kids to never hide from them and know they're there to help.

It's a great idea, except it always backfires for Maddie. Every single time, she screams and cries to the point of hyperventilating. Lord, let her never be in a situation where she needs a firefighter to rescue her!

Once the gear was stripped away, Maddie allowed the men to pick her up and put her inside the firetruck. It probably didn't hurt that the firemen consoled her with stickers and a coloring book.

One of the little boys there looked exactly like James from the back. His mom and I repeatedly mixed them up!

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The next week we toured the regional airport. I debated not going because I had been sick the night before and still felt incredibly weak and nauseous. It ended up being one of my favorite "field trips"yet and our best experience at the airport. We began the tour along the runway, then inside hangar with jets owned by Joe Gibbs racing. (This is NASCAR country, my friends.)

We then toured the airport fire station, which was an interesting contrast from the local fire department. I somehow have never realized that the airport firefighters don't get out of the truck. They literally drive the truck and operate everything from inside it. Apparently it is where firefighters go that only have a few years left before retirement.

The highlight of the trip was seeing the medical helicopter. The EMT's and pilot were all excellent with the kids. James was his usual curious self, trying to unplug every cord he discovered. Jackson was captivated by an EMT and asked several questions. Amelia and Maddie were cautiously interested.

The real excitement came from watching the helicopter take off. As we were leaving, the medical staff received an emergency call. We all sat on the grass and watched with awe. Maddie and Amelia covered their ears and yelled, "It's loud!"

Without a doubt, these field trips and play dates will be what I miss most when I'm at work. I know the kids will thrive in a structured academic setting but I will miss our relaxed, hands-on approach to learning and exploring our community.