Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Worst. Park. Day. EVER!

What was supposed to be a super fun Tour de West Side Parks with my friend, Emily, and her kiddos, was by far, my least enjoyable day so far. Well, let me back up. The entire day wasn't exactly a bust. It did make for a fun story and we do love spending time with our friends.

But, have I mentioned before that I have a strong dislike for heat and humidity? It's really more along the lines of complete loathing. I realize that I am not exactly the most sweet-natured person to begin with, but I can usually at least keep myself under control in public. The heat seriously turns me into a fire-breathing beast (that sweats like a pig). Ugh. I hate being hot!!

Grier was asleep in the car and actually stayed in there, with the AC blasting, the entire time we were at this park.

The morning started out pretty funny actually. By the time we met up by the sign at Memorial Park, it was already in the 90s. We spent 20 minutes or so enjoying the playground.

Later in the day, it would turn out that I had forgotten several important items (i.e. swim diapers and an essential piece of my swim attire), but I did at least remember to bring water bottles for the kids and Fletcher thinks his is like the greatest thing ever.

Next, we loaded up the minivans and headed to Bakker Park.

Trey and Bo were the only ones brave enough to leave the small circle of shade this tree provided and try out the playground. I guess I followed to try to get a few photos, but I quickly retreated back to the shade.

Emily says this is one of their favorite parks because it has a good playground and lots of room to run, but it's easier to keep track of the kids here than it is at some of the bigger parks, like Sertoma.

At least we can always count on Emily to provide treats. If it wasn't for the Chips Ahoy! we might not have been at Bakker Park for more than 5 minutes. As it was, the cookies provided about ten minutes of activity.

Mmmm...Chocolate chips.

The cookies also provided Porter's only reason to leave the comfort of their air-conditioned van. He made a quick dash over to Emily to grab a cookie and then headed straight back to the van. He and I would definitely make great summertime buddies.

Next stop: Emily's air-conditioned house for lunch. This was easily the most enjoyable part of the day for me. Emily and I were able to chat while the kids played. Did I mention her house was air-conditioned? Aaahhhh...It was nice.

But alas, the pleasant lunch hour came to an end. Ever since Grier and Ryker were born last fall, Emily and I have texted or called each other frequently to share our "it's horrible in the moment, but we know we'll laugh someday" stories that come with having so many kids. When we're together, we frequently look at the crew of 8 kids between us and just laugh. There are a lot of kids and there are definitely a lot of "we'll laugh about this later" moments. Monday afternoon at Kuehn Pool was definitely one of those times for me.

First of all, the thermometers in the minivans said it was more than 100 degrees outside. And standing on that glaring concrete, with the reflection off the water, it was awful. I forgot the shorts that I usually wear over my swimsuit bottom if I haven't had time to shave. So, I couldn't get in the water for the first 30 minutes we were there, until my sister arrived with a pair of athletic shorts for me to borrow. Poor Grier, while I was dripping with sweat by this point, that poor girl was just turning red, even as we stood in the little bit of shade I could find. Lindsey arrived approximately 30 seconds before 10-minute break was called, so I changed shorts as quickly as I could and dipped Grier and myself in the pool so we could at least be wet during the break. It barely helped. We stood in the shade. We were miserable.

When the break was finally over at 2pm, Leah and Bo kept asking me to watch them go under the water or doggy paddle. I had to pretend that I was watching because my eyes were having some kind of reaction to the pool chemicals or something. I seriously couldn't open them for as long as I was in the pool. I was wearing my sunglasses, so I don't think they realized my eyes were closed. : ) Poor Grier kept rubbing her eyes too. Hers even stayed red for several hours after we left the pool.

By 2:10, I couldn't take it anymore. The sun was beating down, Grier was fussy because her eyes hurt and she was completely ready for a nap, my eyes were stinging and watering. I know it probably doesn't seem like anything that awful to a normal person, but even thinking about it now, I feel like I might lose my mind again. I finally just told Auntie Lindsey she could keep the big kids in the pool for about ten more minutes while Grier and I got the car (and more importantly, the air conditioning) started.

There are no pictures to commemorate our time at Kuehn, but I'm still checking it off the list. I tried. And sometimes that's just all you can do. Well, sometimes that's all I can do.

Even Emily had to leave by the time Lindsey and the kids came out to the van. Ryker was ready for a nap and I had ditched out on what was supposed to be a super fun day and left her at the pool with no adult company. Now I'm just banking on the fact that Emily is the truly sweet-natured one in our friendship, so I'm hoping she'll forgive me and we can have a do-over with more west side parks and another try at Kuehn Pool. But Emily, can we please try it on a day when the mercury is below 100?

Granite Valley Park

101 degrees Fahrenheit + a wide open field + 4 picnic tables = nothing but a sign picture for Granite Valley Park. We were in the neighborhood to return a borrowed item to a friend and let's be honest, this park doesn't have much going for it yet, unless there's a good breeze for kite flying. Trust me, there was not a single air molecule moving last Sunday. This was enough park fun for me. Back to the air conditioning!!

Edited to add: Aaaahhh!!! This place isn't even on my original list of parks! I didn't even realize it until I went to put the date behind the park name on my list. So now I have 78 places I have to visit? Plus, my friend, Emily, told me there's a new sign up by the R.F. Pettigrew Elementary School playground. That makes 79! I was having enough trouble fitting 77 parks into one summer. Maybe we're going to have to revise this goal to say we'll get them all in before the first snow. I'd still be satisfied with that. We'll see what happens over these next few weeks!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

U.S.S. South Dakota Battleship Memorial

After our not-so-fun time at Robert Frost Park, we went home to eat and saw a vast improvement in the attitude department. So, I decided we could chance another park. In order to continue our patriotic theme for the weekend, we decided to visit the Battleship Memorial. They loved it!

So did I. But the history-lover in me is hoping to go back by herself sometime in order to actually soak in all the information available. I'm pretty sure we went there once when I was younger, but I don't really remember it very well. It's one of those unique places that you could take visitors to Sioux Falls or kill an hour with your kids, if you've never been there before. We were there less than an hour, but I would think older kids, especially those who could read, could easily spend an hour or two there looking at all of the memorabilia. There was some kind of video available to sit and watch, but we didn't do that.

By the way, I had some guest photographers on this one. Leah and Bo, not completely over the crabbies from earlier, fought most of the time over who would take the pictures. You can pretty much assume that if one of them isn't in a picture, they were probably the one taking it.

I'm a little worried about Fletcher's obsession with bad guys. It didn't matter how many times I told him that only the good guys were on this ship, he just kept looking for the bad guys.

I will give Leah credit for her determination when it came to this chain from the anchor. She was dead set on walking the entire length of it balance-beam style. Every time she'd fall off, she'd go all the way back to the beginning. Once, when she was almost to the end, she was just about in tears, but she went back anyway!

Robert Frost Park

Those of you on facebook know that I had the crabbiest kids on the face of the planet today. What do you get when you mix that with a park with no sign for a picture? The "boringest" park ever! I tried to tell them that, perhaps, the real problem was their bad attitudes, but they disagreed.

I tried to get them to try stuff, but they just weren't feelin' it today.

Fletcher thought the "baby park," as he called it, was great fun!

But then Leah stepped in this unidentified substance and the fun was o-ver!

Sorry to say, Robert Frost didn't get any thumbs up. Don't feel bad, Robert Frost. It isn't you, it's us.

Riverdale Park

I've been waiting for just the right time to take the kids to this one. Being down by the river, I was a little worried about the bugs. Friday evening turned out to be the perfect time! It cooled off considerably from the time we were at Veterans' Memorial Park in the morning and there was a good breeze that I figured would keep the bugs away.

I have fond memories of this park. It isn't far from the house where I grew up, so it was where we would get on the bike trails when I was little. We used to walk there from Horace Mann for special events. In fifth grade, we had Field Day there. Honestly, though, the playground at this park was nothing too special. Luckily, especially when you're a kid, it's the little things that count.

What kinds of "little" things, you ask? Well, this sand that Leah and Bo were pretty sure came from the desert, for one thing. This is where lots of league sand volleyball games take place, so it is the super soft sand.

These swings that I thought looked pretty ghetto, but they thought were really neat because they were different than any of the others we've seen so far. That is, until they actually tried to sit on them and swing. Then they realized they weren't the most comfortable ride.

Fletcher was so funny at the top of the tube slide. He'd go to the top and say, "I'm coming down, Mom!" So, I'd stand at the bottom and call up, "I'm waiting for you down here!" I'm not kidding, it was probably ten times that we did this, and he never did come down. He would just say, "I'm going on the baby slide instead."

Then he wanted to take Grier on the baby slide. Luckily, Leah was close by. He was ready to just send the baby on her way! Whee!

Unfortunately, it was not so funny as we were leaving the park. He found this little hill that he would stand at the top of and then roll or run down (this is where he was when the sign picture was being taken). Well, I got everybody strapped in the van, all the while calling to him, "Come on, Fletch! We're headed to the station to go see Daddy!" He wasn't listening. His little hill happened to be right by the driveway to the park entrance/exit, so I figured I'd just pull over there and grab him. Oh my gosh! I have never felt so terrible in my life! If my Fletcher-boy ends up in therapy someday, this event will be the cause of it. The poor guy came unglued. He was screaming, "Wait! Don't leave me! Mom! Wait!" I didn't even finish the drive to him. I just pulled over and ran to my sobbing baby. If he was a little older and I'd been trying to teach him a lesson about listening or following directions or something, I wouldn't feel bad at all. But he's two and truly thought I was abandoning him. Seriously, he is getting close to three (the age I have my first memories from) and something this emotionally charged could end up being his first memory! Hopefully, he'll also remember that I didn't, in fact, leave him. Even last night, Grandma Rita was pushing him on the swings at the Inwood Park when he saw Bill pull around the block in the van. He panicked and kept asking Rita where his car was. She finally had to bring him to me so he could see that he hadn't been ditched.

Along with Fletcher's absence from the sign picture, you may notice that one of my daughters is missing. She begged me not to write that she was pouting, but I told her I still probably would. This is supposed to be a record of our adventure and crabby kids have occasionally been a part of it. Someday when I print this off and we look back over it, I want us to know why Leah wasn't in the Riverdale picture. She was mad because Bo got to hold Grier. "He always gets to hold her." Well, my dear, I think the photographic evidence in this case will prove otherwise.

I've kind of lost count on our checklist of parks, but I think we're down to only 50-some left to go. Despite a few bumps in the road, a beautiful evening at Riverdale Park was still a great way to end our day!

Just didn't want anybody to forget how cute Baby G is. Plus, I included a picture of Baby Leah in the same dress, six years ago! This one is especially for those of you who say that I just have four copies of the same kid because they all look so much alike. I disagree!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Veterans' Memorial Park and Kids' Patriotic Parade

Have you been to Veterans' Memorial Park? If not, you are missing out on a truly moving experience and a valuable opportunity to share a bit of history and even current events with your children. This was my first time actually getting out of the car and walking around the park and I am so glad I did. It was particularly meaningful paired with the children's parade that my friend, Kara, organized and led at Dow Rummel Village this morning.

Despite the 85-degrees-by-10am weather this morning and my extreme dislike for heat, I am so glad that we stopped at this park this morning. It was the perfect way to start the Independence Day weekend. Leah and Bo were so curious to hear about each of the statues and sculptures and memorials. Due to the extreme heat and total lack of a breeze, Grier and Fletch, on the other hand, were not so interested in stopping to read and discuss everything at this park, but I still think Leah and Bo got the idea. I think we will make it a point to return and read a little more each time. And maybe even read the names of the men and women on the "Never Came Home" bricks out loud.

I would just like to offer this disclaimer: I don't know what the exact "rules" are about visiting these kinds of memorials, but my children in no way meant any irreverence by walking on and being so close to some of the sculptures and tributes. We talked about staying off the bricks after this picture was taken, but I just wanted people to know that my boys meant no disrespect when they were so excited that they ran to the stars and poppies.

At times, it was difficult even to read the plaques and explain them to my children without getting a bit choked up. It was just a really beautiful time, hearing their perspectives about bravery and doing the right thing, even in the face of danger and persecution. I was proud to tell them about family members who have served and about some of the freedoms they still enjoy here in the United States of America that their counterparts in other areas of the world do not. Regardless of your personal beliefs about current military operations or even your feelings about some of the wars listed at the memorial, are there any mothers out there who would not hope and pray that their children would grow up to be brave men and women, willing to serve and protect not only their loved ones, but people they will never even meet? Not just through the military, but in any situation life may put them in?

Leah was all geared up to be in this picture with Bo. Then she stepped up on the bricks and saw a dead bird behind the "Medal of Honor" sign.

We read about the "Battlefield Cross."

We finally made it back to the car and got that air conditioner blasting. On to Dow Rummel!! Actually, we stopped at a gas station for some cold beverages first. Then, on to the nursing home and getting ready for our little kiddie parade. There were patriotic crafts to prepare, "floats" (strollers) to decorate, tattoos to put on, and a banner to color. It was really sweet to see and hear the kids smiling and waving and calling, "Happy 4th of July!" as they paraded through the dining halls of the nursing home. I'm sure you can also imagine the smiles on the residents' faces as they waved back at the line of children decked out in red, white, and blue and marching to patriotic songs such as, "You're a Grand Old Flag," and "My Country T'is of Thee."

Grier's first tattoo.

Ready to march!

Happy Independence Day (a little early), everybody!!