Saturday, August 13, 2011

More Firsts: Pittsburgh Zoo

We interrupt the previously started vacation posts to bring you pictures from the zoo.

Sorting through the 1,000 pictures from the beach trip is proving to be more of a project than I have time for, so I thought I'd go ahead and skip ahead and post the pictures from our visit to the zoo on Thursday first.  

As some of you already know, the day started out a little rocky...bloody really....as I attempted to quickly open the stroller in the parking lot at the zoo by holding the side bars and flipping it up in the air so it snapped open.  Problem was that my thumb just happened to be right where the 2 side bars snap together, thereby crushing my thumb in between.  As to save you all from nausea and certain cringing, I will avoid posting the pictures that I snapped to send to Eric to have him help me ascertain whether or not I should be heading to the hospital.  Suffice it to say that I nearly passed out...and nearly threw up....broke out in a sweat and got the shakes.  Thankfully, after my sweet boy, Daniel, brought me the First Aid kit and said, "here you go, Mommy!", I was able to wrap a bunch of gauze around it, avoid looking at it, and make it through the zoo without moving it or touching anything.  About 9 hours later, when Eric got home from work, I went to MedExpress to have them clean it up and remove the dead skin -- mistakenly thinking that they'd numb it first!!! -- and discovered that I actually broke the bone in 2 places.  Super.

Anyway, the boys weren't affected much by my little stroller mishap, so they had a fun day at the zoo.  When Markos and Daniel talked about the zoo on the way and Daniel told him what animals they'd see, Markos said so many funny things.  He was concerned about the monkeys and rather or not they'd bite him.  I suspect that this was a concern because they actually do have monkeys in Ethiopia and Markos has told me before that they were mean.  When we talked about the elephants and how there was a baby, Markos smiled and said in the most adorable voice, "awww!  Can I hold him?".  I said no and Markos asked, "he's big?".  I said yes and Markos said, "he has big feet?".  I said yes and he further clarified, "he squish me?".    Yes, honey, the baby elephant would still squish you.   I asked Markos what animal he wanted to see the most at the zoo.  He said a cow.  He was disappointed that they weren't going to have cows at the zoo.  (mental note:  must plan trip to Round Hill Farm to see the cows)

No cows, but we saw the usual's at the zoo:
snow leopard, tigers, lions, komodo dragon, leopards, flamingos, elephants, antelopes, monkeys, bears, polar bears, sharks, beaver, otters, kangaroos, loads of different types of fish, deer, and sea lions.
Markos said his favorite animal was the zebras, but honestly, I didn't see any zebras.  He swears he did, though.  Daniel's favorite was the leopard who was sitting up against the glass in full, close-up view.  It WAS a beautiful cat.  HUGE feet with spots all the way down to his toes.  I was sad that my favorite - the penguins - weren't swimming and playing like usual.  They were all just standing around.  Daniel theorized that the water was too cold for them.  I didn't agree, but let it go.

It was a beautiful day - sunny and high 70's, maybe low 80's.  Nice breeze.  Not so hot that the monkey house smell smacked you in the face when you walked into the building.  That's always a plus!  We steered clear of the bat room though.  That's a smell that just isn't O.K....EVER!  Particularly not when your thumb is throbbing and you've already nearly vomited once that day.

We ate our packed lunches and the boys played in Kids' Kingdom on the slides for a while.  The deer in the deer yard did not come near the path so the boys didn't get to pet them.  However, the kangaroos were more playful than I've ever seen them.  Their legs reminded me of Lily.  That can't be a good sign.  The boys went in the petting area to see the goats and sheep.  Markos was afraid of them.  I was a little surprised by that.  He eventually followed Daniel's lead (as always) and touched the animals.  Then, the boys played in the water mister - longer than they should have -  and ended up soaking wet.  A few snacks in the car and a not-nearly-long-enough nap for Markos on the way home, and our first trip to the zoo was complete.  All in all a good day.

The boys with map in hand, ready to start out


Markos and Daniel watching the elephants

Watching the gorillas

Look at the size of that fish!



Markos sliding down the slide in Kids' Kingdom



Markos and Daniel sitting on the turtle

Checking out the camel

Daniel petting one of the goats

Playing in the mister

Watching for the sea lions







Posing by the giant praying mantis

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

King's Dominion, Part 2

After getting changed out of bathing suits and reapplying loads of sunscreen, we hit the pavement in search of rides that Markos was allowed to ride.  Unfortunately, he needs to grow about another 2 inches before he can really even ride the big rides that kids are allowed on with a parent.  However, there were several 'bigger' rides in the kiddie area that he rode with Mackenzie and Daniel.

Rarely am I willing to spend money on anything at amusement parks except food and drink, but with each child, it seems that I've splurged to purchase one picture of them on a ride that is just classic.  Markos was no exception.  This is his first ride on a roller coaster.  Not a huge coaster, but a fairly speedy one for little kids.  Hilarious! 

Markos first ride on a roller coaster
 What's even funnier is that because it was so dead in the park, most rides allowed us to just stay on if we wanted to ride them again.  Mackenzie and Daniel loved it and wanted to ride again, and so, he insisted that he liked it and wanted to ride again, too!  Until it started.  Then he started to cry and wanted off, crying the entire ride.  Sometimes his insistence on always getting exactly what the other 2 kids get works to his disadvantage!  (and no, I didn't splurge to buy the second picture.  It was much like the first, except with tears and Eric looking slightly annoyed.)

Markos and Daniel riding another kiddie coaster
Daniel and Markos riding the kiddie pirate ship
After Daniel rode several of the rides in the kiddie area with Markos that he was still short enough to ride, Eric took Daniel and Mackenzie out into the park to ride some of their favorites.  Markos and I spent a good bit of time in kiddie land, with him riding most rides a minimum of 3 times in a row.  OK, so being at an amusement park when it's 100 degrees does have SOME good perks!

He thought these cars were super cool because he could actually steer to some degree.



On the rare occasion where he had to wait for someone else to get on or off of a ride, this is how he waited.

Flying these planes was one of his favorites.  I think he rode about 10 times.

Also loved driving the trucks
We stayed until closing time.  I can't believe Markos never did fall asleep.  He was SO tired.  Poor thing.  By the time we returned the double stroller and I was carrying him to the van, he burst into tears.  I asked him what was wrong and he said, "I want to be home.  I'm tired.".  His sleeping at home is great, but he still has a hard time allowing himself to relax enough to settle down and go to sleep when we're out and about.

It was an amazing day - especially given the heat.  Our kids were all three troopers!  They rarely whined; they enjoyed themselves; they helped one another and got along; they didn't complain; and they even let me take pictures!  (that's a miracle in and of itself!)  It was some special Snoopy Spectacular or something like that when we were there, so we finished the night eating ice cream, while we watched fireworks and listened/watched the musical light show around the Eiffel tower.  And, as you can hear Daniel say at the end of the video, "that was SO COOL!".

More Firsts: First Vacation Stop - King's Dominion, Part 1

On Thursday, July 28th, we embarked on our first summer vacation as a family of 5. Eric had to work, so we waited and left around dinner time, driving just south of Doswell, VA to our hotel.  We thought that we were surely in for a miserable drive when, at our first bathroom stop, Eric accidentally slammed Mackenzie's fingers in the van door (like, REALLY slammed them in the door.  Like, had to open the door to get her fingers out!).  After a fearful scream of shock (Eric's!), many tears (Kenzie's), and much anxiety (mine), we were on our way again with ice packs from the cooler wrapped around Mackenzie's hand. Amazingly, aside from some bloody knuckles and minor swelling, her fingers didn't look too bad by the time we got to the hotel.  For several days, they continued to hurt her if she used them, but no dislocated joints or broken bones - thank goodness!!

We arrived at the hotel late. Much like kids on Christmas morning enjoying the boxes more than the gifts, Markos was super excited just to be at the hotel, ride in the elevator, and run around our suite. We could have saved a lot of money if we'd have just stayed at the hotel for a few days and then gone home. But alas, the other two children are not as easily amused, so after a fairly decent night's sleep, we headed out to King's Dominion Amusement Park early Friday morning.

At the gates at opening time
After making our way through the gates, for the first time ever, we all went to the top of the Eiffel Tower.  The worker explained all about the height of the tower, how much metal it took to build it, yada, yada...but again, the boys were just excited to ride up the elevator - especially when this one had glass walls that you could see out.  Personally, I was just happy that the elevator was air conditioned.  It was just after 10:00 AM and it was already HOT!  Weather forecast prediction was for temperatures to be around 100 degrees and sunny for the entire day.  Not the best amusement park weather, but at least it wasn't storming and at least there is a huge water park in King's Dominion.

The Eiffel Tower at King's Dominion
The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower

The Volcano - Eric's and my favorite ride at the park

After returning from the top of Eiffel Tower, we rode a few small rides that were right along the path to the water park, where we planned to get a locker and store our bags.  Poor Markos was so excited to ride something - anything! - and we couldn't find a ride nearby that he was tall enough to ride.  I rode some yucky, spinning ride with Daniel and Mackenzie.  Nothing like starting the super hot day in the park with a little nausea.  Then, we finally found a carousel that Markos could ride. 
I love you, Daniel.  You know this because I'm willing to ride this with you so that you are allowed to ride.

Markos on his first carousel ride

At this point, there were not many people at the park (smart people stay away on 100 degree days).  Our children have, at many times in the past, begged Eric and I to let them ride the Ferris wheel.  We usually say no.  We do this because we're smart we know that it takes FOREVER by the time you get on, wait for everyone else to get on, ride around for a little while, then wait for everyone else to get off so you can get off.  Yet, on this special day, we decided to say yes because it was a day of firsts...and we figured that it wouldn't take as long as normal because there was hardly anyone in line before or after us.   

the dreaded Ferris Wheel
And yet, when we boarded, the attendant informed us that this Ferris wheel was built in blah, blah, blah; the height of the Ferris wheel is yada, yada, yada; and YOUR RIDE WILL LAST APPROXIMATELY 12 MINUTES!

Ah, yes.  12 minutes slowing turning in the hot sun,
baking like a rotisserie chicken.  

12 minutes in a little hanging basket with 3 children ages 4, 7, & 14,
strapped closely together.

12 minutes where we start out looking like this:






But quickly look like this:



And finally end up looking like this:


Needless to say, the Stark family WILL NOT be riding the Ferris wheel EVER.AGAIN.  We attempted to explain to Mackenzie that someday (when she's 30) and she is dating some fine, young Christian man, that riding the Ferris wheel in the evening with the lights on, where they can sit and talk and gaze into one another's eyes, is a nice thing.  Aside from that, however, the Ferris wheel holds little value in the amusement park world.

After the Ferris wheel torture ride, we quickly made our way to the water park where we spent the next four hours staying under water as much as possible.  Seriously.  Not.Even.Kidding.  We all rode the lazy river - twice.  Eric and the older two did some of the water slides.  We all played in the wave pool, where we quickly realized that we would need to stop at a Target or Wal-Mart en route to the beach to buy a life jacket for Markos to wear at the beach because he was not afraid of the waves AT.ALL.  We played in the big splash house for a long time.  A boys' (and grown man's) dream come true - a place with cargo nets, bridges, slides, buckets of water, giant water guns, etc. where they can run and climb and engage in surprise attacks on unsuspecting people walking below.  Normally, I am mortified when Eric and Daniel dump water on strangers' heads, but at least on this particular day, it was so hot that no one cared.  In fact, it was welcomed.

Unfortunately, we do not own a waterproof camera.  So, on the one hand, we sadly have no photos from this period of the day.  On the other hand, thank goodness, we have no photos of me in my bathing suit from this period of the day.  

Afternoon in water park on 100 degree day 
+ no nap 
+ fear of complete and total meltdown by Markos 
= shelling out some bucks to rent this for the day!  

(best money spent - EVER!)


[Side note:  I was so delirious from the heat after I sprinted across the park to rent this thing, that as I read the sign while the guy asked me what I needed, I accidentally said, "a double wheelchair".   I think it might have been a Freudian slip of some nature.  At first, he looked at me strangely; but after I burst out laughing and said, "oh, I mean a double STROLLER!", he laughed and looked relieved as he said, "I was gonna say, I didn't know we had THOSE!".  He said he thought it was a good idea and that he might suggest it to management.  So, if you go to King's Dominion next year and see a double wheelchair, just know that it was my idea.]

The kiddos, dressed and ready to hit the regular part of the park after four hours in the water park.
...to be continued....