Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Va Va Voom, Va Va Vala's

Having grown up in Omaha, it's easy to feel like I know most everything about the city.   Last week proved me wrong when the munchkins and I ventured to Vala's Pumpkin Patch. Boy, did it take me by surprise!  Let's just say that it far exceeded expectations.

Leaping into the hay bales. It was Girl Scout week, so we got a great discount for dressing in uniform.
Talia's on the go.
Six is old enough to drive a tractor, right?
We liked this purple tractor even better since the color reminded us of NomiAnn and Central High.

Go Central Eagles!
Vala's had trikes for the little tikes...
...and the big ones too!
Cornhuskers everywhere!
Got corn?  Way more fun than ethanol.
These enormous jumping pillows were an absolute riot.
The only challenge was convincing Annika that they were not intended for flips.
Fortunately no one got hurt, but Brooklyn played possum anyway.  Given the flowers in her hair, I may have to dub her Ophelia.

Next stop was the pig races.
Better hold on tight!
The Beverly Hillbillies makeover.
This goat went to great heights to get a closer look at Eli.
Every pumpkin farm needs some giant pumpkins.  Only at Vala's, however, do you have to beware of wandering too far and being splattered by pumpkins being shot from a cannon.
When we added Annie into the picture, it looked like she laid a giant egg.

Guess what we found in the corn maze?  Friends!  Front and center is Talia's classmate, Elena Pospishil.
Just behind was Thomas, Eli's kindergarten BFF.  Apparently the two occasionally hold hands as they walk from the bus to their classroom.  Thomas looks happy as can be in this photo.  His mom, on the other hand, was absolutely terrified at this moment, having lost track of him in the maze.  So scary!

Needless to say, our morning excursion to Vala's quickly turned into an all-day affair.  The kids were plenty happy to substitute the world's largest bag of Kettle Corn for a nutritious lunch.  (The first and last time--even though we didn't even make a dent in the bag, we had some pretty sick tummies after.)
Truth to be told, I think I enjoyed the Big Slide just as much as any of the kids.  Thanks to our combined mass, Annika and I were lightning quick!

A train ride, a hay rack ride, some pumpkin picking, a haunted house, and a tour of the apple barn later, and we were feeling quite worn out and ready to go.  That is, until the kids spied these life-sized lincoln logs.
Lickety split, our engineers were full-speed in action. 
What happens when the offspring of a home builder collaborate with the offspring of an architect?
Lincoln log magic!
In a few weeks, Eli's kindergarten class is headed back to Vala's.  I'm looking forward to tagging along as a chaperone because believe it or not, we never even saw a third of the attractions.  What can I say?  Vala's, you surprised me. 

Made in China

There's nothing quite as disappointing as opening your brand new Star Wars puzzle, only to discover that it's missing a piece.  When faced with such a scenario, Eli suggested that perhaps we could go to the store where we bought it and find out where the factory is so that we could drive there and have them make a new piece. 

Jason paused for a moment: "It says it's made in China."

Friday, September 18, 2015

Labor Day Camping 2015: Lake Icaria v. 2.0

Labor Day Camping.  Lake Icaria.  Same people, same holiday, even the same campsites.  In some ways, it feels like I don't even need to blog about it because it's all been written right here.

While it's certainly true that this year's Labor Day camping closely resembled last year's, some experiences are so rich that they are simply worth repeating.  Here are a few photos to help us remember:

Setting up camp. Papa K, Annika, and I drove out to the lake several hours before the rest of the crew so that we could snag our favorite sites and start setting up camp.  We quickly discovered that the biggest disadvantage of having a campsite near the water is that you have to haul all your loot quite a distance.  While my Dad and I set up most of camp on our own, we left a few key items for Jason to assemble later.

Brooklyn and Annika at the adjacent playgound.  Why is it that play structures are always most appealing when there is work to be done?

While the days were a little bit warm, the evenings were absolutely magnificent.

On Saturday, we rented a pontoon boat--just like last year, but better.

Annika's curious about what's so different...

Tubing!  Our bigger-is-better rental boat had enough power to give plenty of rides up and down the lake.  Here's Brooklyn...



...and Annika.  Annie was definitely not a fan.  Next year, perhaps.

Daddy's at the helm.

Relaxing's much more fun, especially when you've got so much hair for the wind to blow through.

Looks like Papa K and NomiAnn are relaxing too.  So the question is, who's steering?

Meanwhile, Kara and Annika hop on in for a swim.  Annie hollered like crazy for the first while, but we finally coaxed her out of the panic stage.

Talia entertained us with her leaps.  (Having already run 10 miles earlier in the day, she was going for a biathlon.)

No explanation for this.

And back home again to celebrate another gorgeous sunset (not to mention BYU's miraculous victory over Nebraska with a Hail Mary into the endzone during the final play.)

The next morning we headed to church at a tiny branch in Lenox, Iowa, but not before cooking some pancakes for breakfast.  The small congregation definitely remembered us, and made it known in no uncertain terms how much they'd love it if we moved there permanently.

Post-church naps are definitely less restful with grandchildren around.

Look closely in this picture and you'll notice someone's still poking Papa Kay in the ear.

Jason and I finally had mercy on the wiser generation and took the wee ones for a hike.  Talia wanted to carry a bucket on her head in memory of last year's ALS ice bucket challenge.

Thinking of you, Uncle Jay!  We caught a frog in your honor (sorry, no newts.)

This year, Brooklyn opted to carry her little sister, who generally leaks less than a bucket.

Unlike last year, this time we made it all the way to the dam.

The essence of camping: roasting hot dogs over glowing coals...

...beneath a flaming sky.

All of the other fair-weather tent campers (namely everyone but us) missed this gorgeous sunset because storms were in the forecast.

Personally, I'm glad we stayed.  It rained a fair bit, but we awoke to clear skies and sunshine.  A yummy breakfast, some frisbee, and Casa de Oro on the way home made the perfect Labor Day camping trip--version 2.0.  Thanks Papa Kay and NomiAnn for another great time.