Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Linwood Park

I'm afraid I don't have any clever or interesting stories to share about this one. It was just your basic, beautiful weather, beautiful park kind of morning. We had to return a few items to Oak View Library this morning and this park happens to be on the way, so it's the one I chose. There were big shade trees, and even this fun one for climbing. It's not a huge park, but if you happen to be in the neighborhood, it's definitely worth a visit!

"I'm the grumpy old troll!"

Lost and Found

I already posted this on facebook, but I just couldn't resist including it here too. If you've been reading these posts for a while, you may recall a pet caterpillar that was lost in my van two weeks ago (see PrairieTrailTomarLyon Park for details). Well, this morning, my children and I were just minding our own business, heading for Oak View Library to return a few overdue items, when I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw THIS

on the back windshield!!! I wasn't even certain, at first, that it was inside the van. I promise, I was as cautious as a woman with a butterfly in her van can be, as I pulled to the side of the road and confirmed that we had a live monarch butterfly inside our car. The kids were beside themselves and honestly, the most logical explanation is that our lost pet caterpillar became this found pet butterfly! I am quite certain that we would have noticed if a monarch butterfly had flown in through an open window or door as we climbed in the van. It was definitely a highlight of our day!!

Sherman Park (aka Shertoma)

Is it any surprise that the birthday celebration for a guy named "GooF" involved lots of kids and lots of fun?! Between the four families that were out to celebrate on Saturday, there were 8 adults and 12 children.

We started out at Pizza Ranch. Is there really any place else when we're talking about those kinds of numbers? When it was clear that it was time to move our posse outdoors, we considered visiting Sertoma Park. That idea was quickly pushed aside, however, when the mothers of the group began imagining what it would be like to keep track of that many children at such a huge park. Not all the dads got the memo, though, so when one of them pulled in at Sertoma, his wife asked why they weren't at Sherman Park. He quickly replied that they were at, "Sh-sh-shertoma." Luckily, they were the first ones to leave the ranch, so the kids in that vehicle didn't miss out on any of the fun.

For this visit, we just played in the upper part of the park. There was some kind of wedding or family reunion going on in the lower part of the park, and technically, we've been to that part of the park about a million times anyway. Maybe we'll try to make it back for Tot Lot sometime.

Any guesses on the ages of these girls, based on the smiles? I know other people will look at the pictures of the babies and "oooh" and "ahhh" over how cute they are, but really, there is just something so precious about the gappy, goofy grins of our "big" girls.

They were determined that they should have a sleepover and they even had a "divide and conquer" strategy that they tried. First, they asked me about it, when I was watching Bo slide down the fire pole and I was separated from the other moms. Next, they rushed us all at once. And finally, they descended upon Michelle, the one whose home they had decided would be the location of their sleepover. It was already bedtime, though. Sleepover denied.

Here is Grier with her potential future husband and future mother-in-law. I was trying to get a really great picture of Emily and Grier smiling together so we could have that as proof that her mother-in-law used to be able to make her smile. : ) With the baby boom that took place within our circle of friends last August through March, we don't think we're being unreasonable to hope she'll marry the son of one of our friends.

Somehow, the dads managed to evade the camera for most of the evening. GooF wasn't shy, though, and was more than willing to be in the sign picture. There were so many people, it's a little difficult to even see the name of the park, but I promise, it was Sherman. The big trees and scenic view make this a great park, but those great features may have been overshadowed just a bit by the great company!

Happy Birthday GooF!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Dunham Park

Well, I stand corrected, my friends. Last Friday, I posted on facebook that I had fed my children the breakfast of champions: pie. However, according to the t-shirt worn by the father of three young boys at the park today, "69," is actually the breakfast of champions. Wow. Stay classy, Sioux Falls. Stay classy. Thank goodness Leah was too busy playing on the playground to take note of the guy's shirt and ask me what it meant. I feel like I've been pretty good about answering my children's questions about their bodies and other sensitive topics, such as childbirth, with age-appropriate facts, i.e. our conversation last summer about how baby calves get out of their moms and how our new baby was going to get out of me. But I'm not sure that even I can think fast enough to give an age-appropriate, factual answer about 69 to a six year old. Crisis avoided for now. Wipe the brow, give a sigh of relief.

Now, I guess this is supposed to be a family blog, and it's supposed to be about the parks, so moving on...

If anyone is super familiar with Dunham Park and can direct me to the sign so that I can get a picture with my kids, I'd appreciate it. We played on the equipment for quite a while, but a storm was brewing, so I loaded the kids up to make sure we were buckled before the rain hit and I looked in all the obvious spots, like the parking lot entrances and the street corners, but I never did find the sign. Help! I didn't even know what park I was at until I looked up the address on my list I printed from the Parks and Rec website. I had just driven around looking for a park near the fire station Bill was working at today, and this one seemed like as good a park to try as any.

Bo pretty much ended up as my model today. I kept telling him to try the different equipment so I could take a picture of him on it. If we lived on the west side of town, we'd totally visit this park again!

This park is also a site for ball games and tournaments. I've seen the parking lot packed on the weekends. It's a really pretty area on the west side. Is it Silver Valley or Silver Creek or something like that? There's a nice walking and bike path and a neat little footbridge. The equipment here was unique. It was Little Tikes brand and it had a few different attachments that we haven't seen anywhere else before. And it was another one with that sproingy surface under it. I'm beginning to really like that stuff!

Cherry Rock Park and River Boulevard Greenway

I know I've been a bad little blogger. We actually visited Cherry Rock Park and Greenway Boulevard Park on Saturday (6.18). But somehow, I just haven't gotten around to writing them up.

The kids, of course, loved the playgrounds. The first one we tried was a little space-agey, but fun. It had that squishy surface under it again.

I just had to throw this one in because it was so funny. Bo just about jumped out of his skin when he put his hands under the dryer in the bathroom. It was powerful, that's for sure!

Before walking over to the other, more "traditional" looking playground, we decided to cross the old bridge and see the park on the other side of the river. This is where my favorite part of the visit came in. I love learning about history and I got two lessons in one that day. First, as we were crossing the bridge, I saw a friend of mine that I know from subbing. She was telling me about how she remembers when she was in college and the bridge used to be open to motor traffic. She told me about how the family that built the Cliff Avenue Greenhouse used to own the land that Cherry Rock Park is on now. She pointed out where their house used to be and how the entire river valley there, where the space-age playground is now, used to be full of crops and down the bike trail a little ways, there are still a few old apple trees left. That totally would have been enough fun facts for me, for the day.

But then we crossed over the bridge, to River Boulevard Greenway, where there is an historical marker. It told about how early settlers used to spend hot days near that spot and there was a rock outcropping that was called Cherry Rock. According to the marker, nobody is sure anymore if it was called that because the rock was cherry colored or because it had markings that looked like cherries, because there is now a quartzite retaining wall covering the outcropping. But people used to jump from it, into the swimming hole below. The bridge was originally built for horse-drawn wagon traffic more than 100 years ago. I've been trying to read the historical markers at any parks that have them, but you can imagine that it's not always easy to stop and read when there are playgrounds to get to and picnics to eat! And of course, the markers never seem to be located near the picnic shelters or playgrounds. They are always in the remotest corner of the park. Maybe next year, I will visit each park alone and just mosey around, reading historical markers. That would be my idea of fun!

For some reason, Fletcher has decided he doesn't want to be in the sign pictures anymore. He almost got away in this one. Check out the bottom left-hand corner.

There isn't a lot to do at River Boulevard Greenway Park, besides enjoy a little green scenery. If you had a frisbee and a picnic blanket, you could settle in for a pleasant game and conversation with a friend, but it's not the kind of place to stick around with children. We had another playground to get to! Back to Cherry Rock!

Grandpa Ronnie and Grandma Loulou stopped by, about the time we got to the second playground at Cherry Rock. Grandma brought some blueberries and Grier LOVED them! Although the one she was eating in the picture must have been a little sour.

Grandpa got roped into pushing kids on the swings. I seriously might just have to hire a middle schooler to come along and push kids on the swings. They're Fletcher's favorite thing, but once he's in one, it's hard to talk him into getting out and trying anything else. I'm sick of pushing kids on the swings! "Mom, can you give me an underdog? Mom, can you give me one little push? Mom, if you give me one more push, I'll pump for the rest of the time. Mom. Mom. Mom!"

I know there will be many times when my kids are grown up that I will think back wistfully about times when they were small. But I can honestly say that I do not envision myself ever walking through a park in 20 or 30 years and thinking, "Oh. If only there were a bunch of little kids trying to get me to push them on those swings." I don't know. I guess it's never a good idea to say "never," but it's a bet I'd be willing to take.

As far as our rating for the park goes...The playgrounds and the history lessons get thumbs up. The construction gets thumbs down. I know it will improve Sioux Falls in the long run, but for the time being, it sure makes the parks along the river pretty crummy looking.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

PrairieTrailTomarLyon Park

That's right, folks. It was a THREE park day! By the time we got up this morning, we had been symptom-free for 24 hours and we had some serious parks and rec ground to cover. We are going to be cramming way too many at the end, if we don't pick up the pace a little.

We got our morning started out right by parking next to the sign at Lyon Park and taking our picture before we started playing. Unfortunately, when I turned the camera on to take that picture, the battery started flashing red. I had to be very selective with the rest of the pictures I took this morning. I would have loved to take pictures of the kids in front of some of the flower beds or on the quartzite retaining walls, but I was afraid the camera would die before Fletcher could have his picture taken with the "army gun," as he called it. Grandma Loulou and Auntie Elli stopped by on their way to pick Grandma's car up from the shop.

"We're flyin' at Lyon!" they yelled.

I have always loved this park, mostly because I've always wanted to live in the "Green Gables" house across the street from it. Even though we just moved into our current home, I won't be giving up my dream of buying that house someday and being "Annie of Green Gables." Although there were cars lined up along the park side of Phillips Avenue, we were the only people in the park. And it's probably a good thing we were there at 9am rather than 9pm. The kids were so excited about the "art" that somebody left drawn in the sand that they started to copy it and add to it. I quickly suggested a game of "erase the artwork" and am hoping I won't find them doodling the same characters and signs in the future. It'll be a proud day when the principal calls me in to ask where my kids picked up the gang symbols. Awesome.

It wasn't easy to get the kids away from Lyon Park, but I managed to catch their attention by suggesting a picnic at the next park. In fact, that mud you see Leah and Bo playing in was right by the van and it was harder to get them away from that than it was to get them off the playground. We ran home, fed Baby G, charged the camera battery a little, used the bathroom, and packed our lunches. Tomar Park, here we come!

Leah noticed in one of the other pictures that if she stands in the right place in front of the sign, she can make it say something different. "Omar" Park, here we come!

We chose a park close to my parents' house so Grandma Loulou could join us and then the kids actually went to play/nap at her house for a few hours this afternoon. We have been to this park a million times, but I figured it wouldn't be official unless we actually went there this summer and took the pictures to prove it. It's a great park. It's near the bike trails and the river, so the bugs can be a bit problematic at certain times, but they weren't too bad today. Probably because of the strong breeze that actually made it a little chilly in the shade today. Tomar has all the facilities for an all-out party. There is a shelter with electricity and lots of seating, tennis courts, ball field, basketball court, quite a bit of parking, bathrooms in an actual structure, and a great playground. There are also the soccer fields, but those are supposed to be for league games only. It would be a great place to fly a kite on a windy day. I also think we watched a hot air balloon launch from there once, now that I think about it.

This sand was way more cooperative than that darn sand at Danny Dugan last week, just ask the not-so-cranky girl, Leah.

Another great feature about Tomar is that I think it's kind of a hidden gem. There's usually somebody else there, but it's never packed, unless there's a soccer tournament or something. Oh! And Leah loves this spinny thing.

After supper, we went back over to the south side of town and visited Prairie Trail Park. It's the one on Tomar road, right by the golf course. Again, I parked by the sign and went right for the picture. It only took me what? Ten parks or so to get that part down?

Prairie Trail "Par"

We weren't there five minutes before the kids had found a caterpillar that they were going to be keeping for a pet. Hooray.

The best part is that the caterpillar made it through our playtime at the park and into the van, but he never made it into our house. "I was just swinging him around and now I don't know where he is, Mom," Leah tells me. "But that doesn't matter as much as this. Are you mad at me?" Well, fortunately for her, caterpillars move slower than me, so no, I'm not that upset about it being lost in my van. It shouldn't be able to just sneak up on me like a spider or a mouse could. We'll keep you posted on our pet status.

The kids made some new friends tonight, too. It was actually really fun. If we lived in a different day and time, I probably would have tried to exchange phone numbers with the mom. But I was already walking around trying to take pictures of my kids without getting hers in them, so I didn't want to send out too many stalker vibes at our first meeting. One of her children actually kept saying, "Do you guys live around here? We do. I hope we run into you again sometime." I hope that happens too. They seemed like the kind of people we'd like to get to hang out with again. Plus, the mom was able to answer my question about what the heck this thing was:

I thought it looked like the top part of a merry-go-round, but it was obviously lacking the ability to "go-round", so then I thought maybe it was something to chain a bike to. She told me it used to be a merry-go-round, but the parks department buried it. I guess I do still have a few questions about that one...

Oh! And one last thing. I was talking to my sister after she read the last post, the one that included the piece of equipment that she once fell from and broke her nose. She wanted me to clarify that she did not fall, she was pushed by a kindergartner. Considering that I think she was in fourth grade at the time, I'm not sure if that actually makes the story better or worse. There was a reason my grandpa always called her the "Old Black Cloud," I guess.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Kenny Anderson and the Great Balloon Launch

I'm told that it wasn't actually that "great" of a balloon launch because the weather wasn't ideal. Apparently there are usually closer to 40 balloons that go up and there were only like 7 tonight. My kids sure didn't care. They thought it was completely amazing!

The first thing we did was visit this walk-in balloon that the kids could run around inside. Fletcher was not so sure about it at first. In fact, I had to drag him there crying, but it was too crowded for me to leave him out. Once he got in and saw all the happy children, he was fine.

After the walk-in balloon, we claimed our spot and sat down to our gourmet peanut butter and honey sandwiches. Actually, the kids were asking for seconds, so I guess I didn't do too bad on the meal. And by the way, this cute polka dot picnic blanket that we got as a wedding gift has never gotten as much use as it has this summer. Thanks again, Sue and Missy!

We finished our supper just in time! Once the balloons started launching, they were enthralled, especially Fletcher. I love this picture of him with the binoculars. Most of the time, he was using them backwards. People would walk by and smile when they saw him.

We couldn't call it an official visit to Kenny Anderson Park if we didn't test out the playground, right? This is another one that's connected to a school playground, which means, lots of equipment. I didn't take a lot of pictures of the playground, though, because I'm trying to be conscious of the people around us and the fact that they may not want their pictures plastered on the Internet. With the balloon crowds, it would have been nearly impossible to get many pictures without a lot of other people in them.

This was the most old-school piece we've seen so far. In fact, I distinctly remember one just like it at Horace Mann. And I distinctly remember my little sister falling from it and breaking her nose. And most importantly, I distinctly remember that she was wearing clothes that belonged to me and that she had not asked to borrow when she broke her nose and bled all over everything. The first in a long line of incidents that involved my sister, my clothing, and the "accidental" destruction of said clothing.

The kids absolutely LOVED this roller slide. There used to be one at Laurel Oak, but I don't remember seeing it the other day. This was the first one we've encountered and it was a hit.

These past couple of weeks have been so much fun, visiting parks, taking so many pictures, and making so many memories. For some reason, though, as I was watching these three fly down this slide together, I had one of those, "I'm going to remember this forever and I'm so grateful for it," moments. It was one of those moments where your chest feels like it might burst from the emotion of it. Overwhelmingly, what I felt was gratitude. Gratitude for these four precious lives that God has put in my hands. Gratitude for a husband who is willing to work long hours to support his family and who sees the value in these little things we do together, even though my lack of full-time employment means we won't be going on any big Disney vacations or driving fancy cars anytime soon. I was feeling so giddy with emotion, I was even thanking God for the City of Sioux Falls and the fine parks system that has provided so much entertainment for my family! Aaaaaaand...Then I started to think about the fact that Bill was working tonight, which meant I was going to be getting everybody home and in bed by myself. Sappy moment officially over.

Fletcher ended up with a splinter in his foot from the wood chips, which meant he needed to be carried to the van. Just a little birdwalk here, but it's no wonder I find my left arm is way stronger than my right when I lift weights. That kid is heavy, and for that matter, so is Grier's carseat, and I always carry them with my left arm. I suppose so my dominant right hand is always available for more skilled tasks, like grabbing stray children and opening car doors. Anyway...By the time we got back to the van, I was done for and we still needed a picture by a sign. When will I learn to do the sign picture first? There were two options. The one that only says, "Kenny Anderson Park" is along 6th Street and would have required us to walk some more. Movin' on. We went around to the other side of the park where I could practically pull the van right up to the sign. Let Leah and Bo out of the van, unbuckle and carry Fletcher to the sign, go back for Grier and camera, hand Grier to Leah, snap a picture, let's do it all in reverse. Home. Bed. Fun night is officially done.

P.S. Anne Sullivan Elementary is an Early Childhood site, so they had a playground that was perfect for the younger crowd. It's lower to the ground and the slides are shorter. No platforms to fall from towering heights. All thumbs up!

P.P.S. Just had to throw in the crocodile pic. Fletch was so excited about that thing!