Monday, October 24, 2011

The State Fair

September means the State Fair here in Oklahoma, and once again, we attended. We got a bit of a late start this year, partially due to the cookie-making antics of my mother and I as we tried to put the finishing touches on a cookbook I've been working on. I'm happy to say it is very near completion!
Last year we left before we had used all our midway tickets, and the girls were ready to make sure that did not happen again. We hit the midway first. The traditions were upheld.

We slid on the slides:

We played in the fun houses:

We swung on the swings:

We hit the roller coasters - Gracie wasn't tall enough for the big one, so she rode the kid coaster while Maggie and Jerry rode the big one:
Gracie (third row)
Jerry and Maggie (fourth row)

The big thrill this year was the hang-glider ride. The girls rode this one at least three times:

One new thing we did this year that we had not done before was to go see the sea lions. The girls were enthralled, so we had our pictures made too.

Pretty soon it was time to eat our dinner and head to the Disney on Ice show. See if you can guess what show was playing this year:

Did you guess Toy Story 3? It was pretty good. The girls were still on the edges of their seats, still waving to the characters, still gasping in surprise at Buzz flying through the air. Each year it brings tears to my eyes to see them so enthralled, and each year I fear it is the last. After the show we had a few midway tickets left, so we used them on the way to the car. Here's a parting shot:

Until next year!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Heartland Flyer

Ever since we moved to Oklahoma City, I've wanted to ride the train down to Fort Worth on one of our trips to visit family.  Amtrak has a route, The Heartland Flyer, that makes a round-trip from OKC to FTW each day.  We finally got the opportunity on Labor Day weekend. 
The train leaves OKC bright and early at 8:25, so we got up early and headed down there.  We were able to park right next to the station, so it was pretty easy.  We had gotten there early in order to 'check bags' as instructed on the web site, but that was not necessary.  There is no checked baggage on this trip - you either take it up to the seat with you (plenty of overhead bins) or leave it downstairs in a small baggage area as you pass by. 

Jerry and the girls and our train

Our engine next to the station
Once we got onboard we found seats together (it was crowded because of the holiday weekend).  The seats were nice and large, and and footrests and reclined quite a bit.  There was an electrial outlet by each pair of seats, so you could recharge your devices or plug in a laptop if needed. 
Enjoying the roomy accomodations
Our ride was leisurely, thanks to the extreme heat of the summer.  It affects the rails, so the train can't go as fast as it normally would.  Still, it was quite nice to be able to relax and not worry about the road.  Jerry and I both got quite a bit of reading done.  The girls enjoyed moving around the train, visiting the snack bar and the restrooms several times. 

One humorous moment was provided by the ladies sitting behind us.  We were facing the end of the car, and you could see the adjoining car through the windows in the doors.  After watching the adjoining car moving on the tracks, she said to her companion, "Look how much that car is bouncing around!  I guess we got the good car."   

We enjoyed our weekend, and then reboarded the train on Monday in Fort Worth, arriving back to OKC around 9:30.  It was a stress-free way to travel, but with its limited schedule, I can see why people don't use it more.  It's a shame, because it is a pleasant way to get from point A to point B.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rodents on Loan

Back in May or June, the mother of one of Gracie's classmates called me and asked if we would be open to hosting two gerbils while they took an extended trip across the world.  Although they weren't leaving until September, she was trying to be proactive in finding the critters accomodations.  Since Gracie has been longing to have a small furry critter of her own, I thought this might be a great opportunity to see how she did with the responsibility, without actually having to purchase a pet, so I said that we would be happy to care for the gerbils. 
Then came June, July and August.  And I have to admit, I totally forgot that I had said we would be rodent caretakers.  Until I got a call asking, "Can I bring the gerbils over today?"  I only hope I didn't sound too confused when I said, "Um.  Gerbils.  Oh.  Yea, sure, bring them on over!"

So now we are introducing two gerbils into our family.  Literally.  Here's Gracie introducing the gerbils to her Lego minifigure collection:

Now, I'm pretty sure the gerbils had names when they were dropped off, but the girls have declared (after several trial choices) that the gerbils are now named "Harry" and "Ron".   I'm sure no one has thought of those names before!

Welcome to the family, Harry and Ron!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Our Big Apple Adventure

Our summer wrapped up with the girls spending time with grandparents while Jerry and I headed up to Michigan to take part in a short-term mission, helping to put on a Vacation Bible School at a small church there.  We were part of a team of twelve, and the first step of our journey was the roughly 1000 mile drive to Hastings, Michigan.
Our Team
We stayed at a small campground in a hotel-style building with a big common room where we could meet and eat breakfast. Once we settled in a bit we went to see the church where we would be working.
Community Baptist Church
Our first day there we helped with a block party - to create interest for our VBS. My assigned task was face painting. My designs were super simple, but the kids seemed to like it.

That afternoon we explored the town's center.

It is quite a pretty little town. They still have Kip's Big Boy's up there, and I suggested going there for lunch, and the group agreed.
I have such fond memories of eating there with my Aunt Jane when I was a little girl, but it never occured to me that I had only ever had a hamburger or grilled cheese off the kids menu. I really didn't even know what they served!

Sunday we attended church at Community Baptist, and they had a potluck afterwards where each member of our team stood up and gave their testimony. I was a wreck. I'm not sure why giving my testimony affects me the way it does - I don't get nervous speaking in front of groups in general, but this is different. Every time I do it, even in front of groups of people I know, I just about have a panic attack. That day was no different. By the end of the meal I was a shambles. I wondered why I thought I could be on this team, because I was certainly nothing special! But that's the point isn't it? God can take anything, or anyone, and use them. I'm special in His eyes, and he wants my availability.

The rest of the week was a blur. In the mornings we did survey work in the neighborhood (one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life!) and then we did our VBS in the evening. After a somewhat paltry turnout at the block party, our group got bigger and bigger each night. We reached over 65 kids in all. It will be a real growing opportunity for CBC to pastor those kids - they are a small church with an older congregation - but they are committed to making a difference for their community.

When we got home, I made a video from everyone's pictures to share with our congregation.  I've paid for a license for the song behind it so I can share it with you.  Enjoy!

Music: Big Apple Adventure Theme Song
©Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention
Used by Permission

Friday, October 14, 2011

Crosstimbers Camp

This summer was the first summer both girls were elegible to go to our church's summer camp. Maggie has been eligible for several years (you must have completed third grade), but she didn't want to go unless I went as a sponsor. Our week always seems to fall on Gracie's birthday, and I didn't feel right about leaving for her birthday so. . . this year we could finally all go, and so we did!

Camp ran from Monday to Thursday this year, but Jerry and I were scheduled to depart for Michigan before daybreak on Thursday, so I needed to come home early from camp. This necessatated taking my personal car. The day before we left, my low-tire indicator came on in the van, so late, late the evening before our scheduled departure, Jerry checked on it. There was a nail in the tire - UGH! We used the air compressor to fill the tire, and then he took it to the shop to have the tire patched early, early the next morning. We made it.

Ready to go

The chariot awaits

Found a seat
Camp was fun, if tiring. They kept the kids going from about 7 in the morning (get up at 6:00!) until past 10:00 at night. If the kids had to shower before bed, which they usually needed to because of the activities, it might be 11:00 before lights out. I'm not sure about the kids, but the sponsors were ready to drop pretty quick!

Our first day the girls went to missions as soon as we got there. We learned about Haiti, and tried our hand at digging a well, and building a cinderblock house. 


Cinderblock buliding

After dinner the kids were broken up into groups by age for the aptly named "tribal chaos". Their tribe was also their small group for Bible Study. This week they focused on how to hear God.

Gracie's Green Tribe

Maggie's Blue Tribe

Gracie at small group

Maggie at small group

The next day was Gracie's birthday, and our church's day for the Ropes Course. The group was divided into two, with one half of the kids working on the low elements, and the other half on the high elements, and then they switched.

Maggie was in the first high group, and she chose to do a biggie - scale the wall, walk the tightrope, and then down the zip line. She did great on the wall, but fell on the tightrope, which scared her. The staff was super with her, and they talked her through getting back on the tightrope, and eventually got her down the zip line. She was, as usual, hard on herself, and just wanted to go home right then! I told her she was brave - and when she dissagreed and said she wasn't brave, she was frightened, I told her that being brave doesn't mean you aren't afraid, it means you are afraid, but you choose to do it anyway! Here's my brave girl:
On Belay!


Almost there!

Going across the tightrope

Speeding down the line
At this point Maggie was not very happy about camp - but I refused to give in to her demands to be taken back to our cabin, or even better, to go home right now.  Once she began participating in the low elements, and got her focus off her fall, she began to enjoy herself again.  She may not try a high element next year, but she seems to like the low ones just fine:

Next Gracie's group took their turn. Gracie chose just to climb up to the zip line, skipping the climbing wall and the tightrope.
Ready to go!

Climbing like the monkey she is!

Here she comes!

Ready to go again!
Gracie wanted to know if they would let her go twice, since it was her birthday. I told her I didn't think so, but here is what they did do for her birthday:

Gracie on her Birthday Throne - carried to dinner!
That night was water fun night. The one thing I was woefully underprepared for was the sheer number of messy, wet activities there were at this camp. Next year, I may pack two outfits a day - maybe three! The camp had set up this foam machine, and each team had to dive into the foam, one person at a time, and retrieve balls that matched their team's color. Boy, they were a mess by the end of the game!

I was too chicken to take my camera anywhere near this activity - I used the throwaway waterproof one we purchased in St. John, and the pictures were pretty bad. Still, you can get an idea. It also came in handy the next morning, which was our lake front day. Pastor Charles started us out on the right foot by capsizing as he was entering his canoe:

Once he was upright again we set off down the river, and had an interesting adventure with a fish that jumped in the lifeguard's boat and swam up his shorts. I'm sure the poor fish needed therapy by the time he was done with our group!

Wednesday morning I headed back home to pack and get ready for our trip to Michigan, but the girls stayed until the end of camp and came home tuckered out to begin another adventure with Nana and Granddaddy.

Our Church Group

Heading home tuckered, but happy!