Monday, July 30, 2012

A Little Lazy River Rafting!

After visiting the Butterfly House, it was time to hit the road again. We crashed in Oklahoma, and Kenny found us a place to go river rafting the next day: War Eagle Resort Float Trips on the Illinois River in Tahlequah OK.  The weather was gorgeous, warm and just perfect for some water time.  This was the kids very first canoe-like trip.  :-)

Instead of a canoe, Kenny went with a family raft... thought it would involve a lot less tipping that way.  HA!  It was nice, we could all go in one boat.  The views were beautiful, and we even saw some wildlife along the way.

Kenny and Kyle got out and were skipping stones and messing around in the water. 

After that, Kyle was spending more time in the water than in the boat for a while.  Many times, it was more of falling into the water too.

Crazy dude (click the above picture to see it larger).  But we had a lot of fun, and their first water trip was a success!!!

I'm sure we'll be planning another trip in the future sometime.  :-)

Ken, Dani, Dee & Kyle

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Butterfly House

One of the places we visited on our way to Dallas, was the Butterfly House in Chesterfield MO.

It was super hot out, so we really didn't take long to explore any of the outdoor attractions.  Inside we first saw a butterfly movie, where we did learn some things about butterflies that we never knew.  Then we checked out all their displays, including some insects which normally aren't considered so beautiful such as cockroaches, spiders, and more.  (* shudder *)  Then, on to the butterfly house which was filled with over 60 species of butterflies and 150 tropical plants.  It was very beautiful, loaded with flowers and plants and even a waterfall!

Everyone was off looking for butterflies and taking lots of pictures!

Kyle was using his brochure and identifying every butterfly he could.  :-)  He was doing great!

Delaney was intent on taking as many pictures as she could with her iPod Touch.

And, of course, there were butterflies!  Lots and LOTS and LOTS of butterflies!!!

Sometimes, they were even sneaking up behind you.

It seemed like everywhere you looked, there was a butterfly.  It was pretty darn hot in there, or I think everyone would have been happy to stay longer. 

We took pictures at the beautiful butterfly bench towards the exit and headed out.  They had us in a little mirrored double-door area, where we all had to check for any stray butterflies who had tried to hitch a ride out.  After we were cleared, we were on to our next vacation event.

Much more to come...

Ken, Dani, Dee & Kyle

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Successful Road Trip! We Are Home!!!

Close To My Heart's convention was back in Dallas, Texas again this year -- so our whole family went on a road trip to Dallas, Texas!  We are now back, tired and with tons of laundry, but we had a wonderful time.  I have so many pictures to share, that I definitely will NOT be able to do it all in one post.  They are usually too long as it is!  So I have decided to do one overall post, with one picture to represent a part of our trip, then I'll post some more later each highlighting each part of our vacation!  :-)

Kenny did a fabulous job organizing our road trip, arranging a variety of excursions along the way, and basically taking care of all the tedious planning.  Thanks honey, YOU ROCK!!!  We took off Saturday morning on July 7th.  We met Danielle's BFF RuthAnn for lunch at Avanti's in Bloomington IL, then we headed on to St. Louis MO.

At St. Louis, we went to see a concert under the arch.  The headliner was Dierks Bentley -- AWESOME!  We were lucky enough to get another Meet and Greet, so this time Delaney got her picture taken with Dierks:

The next day, we hit a Butterfly House in Chesterfield MO.  IT WAS ABSOLUTELY FILLED WITH BUTTERFLIES!  Soooo beautiful!

We had a delicious lunch at Sweet Tomatoes (one of our favorite restaurants), in St. Louis before we left town.  The last time we were here, it was over Spring Break 2011 and a blizzard!!!

This time it was definitely not a blizzard, as it was VERY HOT.  So the kids posed yet again for us by the same bushes right outside the restaurant.  :-)  They must get so annoyed with us!!!

Then Kenny and the kids had a fun sidetrip to a laser tag place in Springfield MO, Lazer Force Lazer Tag Zone.  The kids absolutely LOVE laser tag, so they were psyched!  In fact, they had SO MUCH fun and they found out that the Joplin MO location had two stories... that yes, you guessed it... we had yet another pitstop at the Joplin location so they could play another game.  Thankfully, I had a good book to read while they were shooting each other.  :-)

Next we had a river rafting excursion in Oklahoma!!!   It was pretty darn hot, but at least we could always dip in the Illinois River to cool off when needed.

Then we finally made it to Dallas!!!  Woo-hoo!  Since we had a few days before convention, we spent some time together as a family.  The first full day in Dallas, we went shopping.  My very first convention was back in 2004 in Dallas too!  We got this adorable picture of the kids while we were there:


So much to the kids' chagrin, we decided to stage another photograph at the same mall (minus the Burger King crowns -- although, if Burger King had still been there, they probably would have been royalty again).  


What a difference 8 years makes!  LOL  The next day we hit Fort Worth's Bureau of Engraving and Printing to watch money being made.  It was interesting, but due to security reasons we weren't allowed to take pictures!!!  :-(  Then we moved to yet another hotel, but still within Dallas -- it was the convention hotel, the Hilton Anatole.  Before convention started, we all hit the pool and played together as a family.  Then I headed to convention the next day, while Kenny and the kids had yet another lazy day at the pool.  That evening, Kenny took all of us to Texas' largest honky-tonk Billy Bob's.  After supper, Delaney and Kenny hit the dance floor and learned a line dance:


My next convention day, Kenny found a place that had an all-day pass for laser tag, bowling, and miniature golf.  They were up and there early in the morning and literally spent all day there!

Then Saturday morning was my last day of convention, and the day that I was teaching at Extravaganza.  Here is a picture of me with my boards:

While I was busy doing that, the kids and Kenny spent one last day at the pool!  Then we packed up and headed out as soon as I finished my last event at Convention.  Unfortunately, our trip back wasn't nearly as fun and was mainly just driving home as soon as we could.  We had one pit stop in Little Rock AR just to sleep, then we were up and off again and made it back home shortly before midnight on Sunday, July 15th!  Whew!!!

One more quick note, we had a plethora of books for the road trip.  Kenny was slightly annoyed, but he tolerates our love of reading:

Well, that's it!  That's the abbreviated version of our awesome trip.  More details to come on everything else!!!  :-)


Ken, Dani, Dee & Kyle


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Daddy and son day in Chicago!

Kenny and Kyle spent the day in Chicago just hanging out together, just the two of them. They had a blast!

Instead of driving, Kenny decided to take the train.  They took the South Shore from East Chicago to the Museum Campus Station.  Kyle enjoyed his very first train ride.  Although, after a bit, he got a little bored and read the rest of the way.

They decided to take their trip on what seemed like the hottest day of the year, so they were sweating the whole time.  The walk from the train station was over a half mile; Kyle swears it was a lot longer than that!  He was happy to reach the Planetarium welcome sign, only to be dismayed when he discovered it was quite a while past the corner (as you can see in the picture from the sign):

Kyle thought it was appropriate for them to wear their "Star Wars" shirts to the planetarium.

They learned about the Solar System, the Night Sky, Mars Rover, Asteroid Impacts, Telescopes, the Moon, and more through interactive exhibits, movies and wonderful displays.

After the planetarium, they decided it wasn't time to go home yet.  So they took a taxi to Navy Pier and had some great shrimp at Bubba Gump's.  While they were there they saw that there was a water taxi that went to the Willis Tower -- so they even enjoyed a scenic ride on the river.  For dessert, they got some ice cream at Dairy Queen and headed back to the train.  A GREAT DAY!!!

~Ken and Kyle