At last, the Missouri trip! Cue the trumpets! Of course, now that it has been since end of February since our trip, I will have forgotten lots of little details that I probably would have otherwise included, but I'll make up for that with lots of pictures. So. Here we go!
We left middle of the night, as I recall, and drove straight through to central Missouri where Rob's brother and mom live (in separate locales, an hour apart). I started driving, but when it was day, I let Rob take over. Of course, never missing an opportunity to take "here we are driving to another state" photos, there's the one of Rob behind the wheel, all serious-like.
See how far back he is? He may be, well, petite, but he has freakishly long arms, a short torso and proportionately long legs. I am the opposite and have to sit right up against the wheel. We are forever having to move the seat around when we switch drivers in Penelope (our Odyssey)!
Me, trying to look all cool for my self-portrait. Where HAVE those sunglasses gotten to, anyway?
Jack was seriously excited on this trip. It's rare to get a genuine smile out of him (for a picture, that is). I wish I could remember exactly what this one was about!
I think this one had either just woken up or was on her way out. Or maybe both!
Chloë was pretty happy to be heading to Grandma's, too!
After many, many hours in the car, our first stop was in Columbia, MO, to visit Uncle Mike at his restaurant, Sycamore. He's the chef there, and having eaten there a few times, I can tell you that it is absolutely not to be missed if you're in that town. I love that he uses fresh, local, seasonal foods as much as he possibly can on the menu. Be sure and tell him I sent you. That and five cents will probably get you a nickel, but it would be fun anyway. Here's Chef-Uncle Mike telling the kids something restaurant-y. They hadn't been there since the summer of 2007, which in kids' years is like the entire Triassic Period, so of course they wanted the whole experience again.
Here they are about to go into the giant walk-in freezer. You can see the girls are wearing their Girl Scout tunic and vest, respectively. That's because, before our trip, they'd called up Uncle Mike and asked him if he wanted to buy any GS Cookies for their annual fundraiser. He bought one of each variety from them, so Troop Leader Mom made them go deliver them in uniform. Hee.
Sophia liked playing with the flappy bits of the freezer.
Of course, we didn't feed them during the entire, what, 20-some-hour road trip (har, I jest), so they were quick to bum food off Uncle Mike. Well, they were in a gourmet restaurant, after all! You can't lose with grapes when it comes to kids.
They liked going downstairs to look at all the restaurant-size stock in the big pantry there, too. Now that we shop at BJs, they're used to seeing those sizes of cans, and one of them mentioned that it was "like at Uncle Mike's restaurant," one time.
One last peek at Uncle Mike and the front of the restaurant, before it was time to say goodbye and get buckled back in the car for the trip to Grandma's. They didn't love that - getting back in the car, that is - but since Grandma was on the other end of the drive, the complaints were kept to a minimum.
Of course, the first picture I have is not of the kids greeting Grandma but something Grandma almost always has on hand (she does way more baking than I do!) - cookies! I think Sophia spotted the chocolate chip goodness in the garage on the way in and, being our constant eater, accosted them until she was granted one or five. Probably not five, though she wouldn't have turned that many down!
After we'd been there a little while, gone through the hellos and how-are-yous, and shown our lovely room in the finished, cozy basement, Grandma (I now call her Mamacita, so if I slip, you'll know whom I mean) took us into the storage room and showed the kids her train collection. Now you KNOW Jack was all over that!
More of Grandma's trains. I seem not to have a picture of it, which is a shame, but when we were on our way home and driving through the coal towns of West Virginia, we stopped at a gift shop. I found a train made entirely of coal for Mamacita, and picked it up for her to send when we got home. Shame on me for not taking a photo!
Well, would you look at that! I lied. I found it already filed away under the photos from March, for some reason (which isn't odd because our trip DID end in the beginning of March but because I usually don't put them "away" like that until they've been blogged). Isn't it cool? I hope Mamacita liked it.
Anyway, back to our trip.
Even Chloë got interested in looking at all the different train cars from one of Grandma's sets - but no one was more enthused than Jack, of course.
Then Grandma brought out another box. I'll show you what that was in a minute, but I just have to say this peeky-peeky view of Sophia amuses the poo out of me!
Inside was an entire train village of ... what's it called? that hard counted cross-stitch frame stuff, the name of which is escaping me at present ... made by either Grandma or her mother. I can't seem to remember that part, either. (Sorry!)
The kids had a great time playing with that, until Grandma said it was time to put things away and go back upstairs. But not before she gave Rob and me all manner of old-timey cookbooks and things, through which I'm STILL looking. Fun stuff!
Upstairs, we were shown Grandma's Galileo thermometer, which fascinated them. (Gotta admit, they intrigue me, too. I've always wanted to get one. Don't know why I never did.)
This is the next day, now. We were expecting a visit from Uncle Mike and his kids, Harry and Elizabeth, who are younger than mine by quite a few years. Out came the toys - old ones, mostly, from Rob's childhood - that Grandma keeps on hand. Sophia delved right into making a block town.
Meanwhile, Jack was busy setting up the play castle. I think he might have snuck a few of the pieces home with him? I don't know, but the "guys" look recently familiar. Hmmm...
Chloë was into building with the blocks after a spell, too. I seem to remember her getting in a fight over them with Sophia. It wouldn't be a stretch to make that up, if not, since they are always doing that and driving me up a wall!
At last, Uncle Mike arrived with his little ones in tow. They take a while to warm up to new people and situations, so they stuck close to Dad for a while. I tried to get Elizabeth to play, or eat a cookie, or otherwise interact with me, but she wasn't ready yet. No worries, we were all old friends by the time we headed back to Virginia!
Now, there was Rob, in the midst of things, checking out the Lego™ cars Uncle Mike had brought for Jack and Harry. Jack is impatient about figuring out how to put things together, much of the time, so I'm sure he went straight to Daddy to ask for help!
Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Chloë and Elizabeth were working on setting up a game of Twister. Do I have to "™" that one, too? ;) I don't think they ever got it sorted out as to the proper rules, though, so maybe the game was never played. I can't remember...
Then the girls were given an Eric Carle book, and all was well again as they read through that one together.
In the living room - which was beginning to look like mine does ALL of the time - Harry had a flashlight. I got multiple pictures of him playing with that, but none as cute as this. I love the "figuring out" look on his face.
The girls were getting along swimmingly by that point, so there were all kinds of toys and games shared amongst the three of them. It was jolly good to see them playing together so nicely!
Harry was in more of a solitary kind of mood, then. But where was Jack? Playing with something wheeled, it's certain.
Next, Elizabeth showed us how her Daddy flips her, which then obligated him to do the same with Sophia (who weighs half a ton, no lie) and Chloë (more like half an ounce, no lie). About a hundred times. His poor back was aching after that, I'm sure!
Well, this was nice. More Eric Carle reading (The Mixed-Up Chameleon). Isn't it great to see kids - cousins, that is - who never see each other, getting along so swell. Warm fuzzies, I get, just remembering.
Oh, look, there's Jack again, probably having a "bossy" moment. He does that sometimes. Okay, a lot of times. He's not good at sharing. Luckily, it doesn't appear that Harry minded too much!
Look, there's me again! How exciting. I barely recognize myself, even now. Liz was distracted by something, but she really was paying attention to the story I was reading her. In fact, she asked me to read it about ten times. I obliged. It's not often I get to read to her, after all.
After a while, when it was late, my kiddos changed into their jammies, and Miss Linda - Grandma's roommate - allowed them upstairs to her suite to watch a kids' movie. They had a ball, they did. Going up to Miss Linda's room is a special treat, after all.
When the movie ended, and it was time for the littlest Odette children to head back to Columbia for bed, I tried to get them all seated on the stairs for a group picture. It was a comedy of errors. Here's attempt 1: nope!
#2: nope, nope!
For #3, the daddy Odettes got into the act to try and old the squirmy children still, but they STILL wouldn't all look at me!
#4: Ah, forget it!! Not gonna happen. (If I've said it once, I've said it 100 times: child photographers do NOT get paid enough!)
At least the three Odette girl-children posed together nicely for me. Check out Sophia's ridiculous stance. She's still doing that pose all these months later. What a goof!
Either he's happy the kids have gone to bed, or he's giving me a sarcastically-non-genuine "get out my face with that camera" smile.
Nope, they're still here! Must've been the latter. I get that a lot.
The next morning, we arose and got ready to leave for the second half of our week, my mystery shop at a resort in Branson. I found that town to be a lot like Pigeon Forge, TN, except with pretty bluffs. Neither was particularly my cup of tea, but hey, at least now I can say I've been there. This child was really sick on the drive down, but here it looks like she's in the middle of pitching a fit. I should know; she does it about five times every day. ::rolls eyes::
After checking into our resort, we went out to eat at a local touristy establishment for which we'd been given some decent coupons. As usual, there were crayons and coloring papers for the kids. Jack doesn't usually get into it as much as the other two, so this picture is of interest - at least, to me.
Rob ordered a huge beer, which took him about eleventeen hours to finish. He doesn't chug. He's not a chugger. So many times, I have gone out to eat with him and the meal took much longer than it ought to have, because he's so poky about finishing his beverages. And yes, that's a major character flaw. Ha!
I ordered these. Of course, I consumed nowhere near all of that, and there was much sharing and saving for later happening with these crab legs. But, hello, yum!
We stopped at Wal-mart after dinner to get a few groceries, and since our tax refund had come in, this new laptop for me to take with us on mystery shopping trips. We'd bought one for the kids, which I usurped during each such trip, back in the Fall, but Sophia had recently dropped it by accident, and it was kablooey. Can I just say, I hate this laptop? Hate it. It is the spawn of the debbul.
"Home" to the resort after dinner, where Rob crashed on our comfy bed. It was a nice place, I'll give it that.
I can't remember if Jack already had this and brought it along on the trip, or we got it for him at Wal-mart, or what, but I'm thinkin' the latter. Else, why the huge smile?
The next day, we were able to go see a show called Dixie Stampede, a Dolly Parton thing, which had been recommended by my friend Julie when we were in Pigeon Forge but couldn't do at the time. I found a good deal on some tickets, and off we went! Naturally, my horse lover, Sophia, was in 7th heaven when we were able to see the "performers" in their stables getting fed and groomed.
The girls were enraptured of (with?) this big floral butterfly on the front lawn, and they insisted I photograph it. So there you go, lady-babies.
Sophia climbed right up on the display horse at the top of the hill. Rules, schmules, she doesn't care whether it's allowed. Take my picture, dammit!
Chloë thought the cannon was pretty cool.
Oh, another pretty horse, inside this time. And that was the last of the photos until we got "home," because Dixie Stampede doesn't allow photography, under penalty of death.
I did a little souvenir-shopping after the show, and each of the kids got one of these lollies with the horsies on them. Jack and Sophia each had a birthday coming up, so I let them pick out something for that, too, for later. Now that Chloë's birthday is around the corner, I'm wondering if she picked out something for that, too. I think she did, and it's in my closet! Glad I remembered in time...!
Just for sillies.
Huh. I wonder why this kid has so many cavities? ::scratches head in puzzlement::
After that, it was time for a bath. The kids love baths, especially in hotels. They'd live in there if I let them. Anyway, a long time ago, I'd gotten something for them on steep clearance at The Body Shop, and I'd put it away for a special occasion. I'd forgotten about it until I was packing for this trip, so I thought that was as good a time as any to give it to them. You can see I made them close their eyes and hold out their hands to get it!
"What the heck is it?!"
Why, it was animal-shaped soaps, of course! Sophia was given a sea turtle...
...Chloë a (badly photographed) elephant,...
...and Jack got a humpback whale. There were two or three more in the package, and since I think they bathed until every last bit of soap was gone, I probably gave those to them for the next night. They loved it. Just one of those little "nothing" surprises that make life fun, I guess.
The next day, we made the pilgrimage up to Springfield, MO, home of the original Bass Pro Shops. We had lunch with our kids' long-ago babysitter, Angie, and her husband Chris, but I completely forgot to take any pictures of them! Wait, I'll go steal one off her Facebook page, haha:
Then we said our good-byes and headover over to BPS. And oh, my, it was HUGE. Lots of scenery, stuff to do, and of course, things to buy. Let's see, shall we?
The sign tickled my fancy!
This is the kind of place where, as soon as you walk in, you want to look everywhere and see everything at once, because there's just SO MUCH stuff to see! And they didn't spare any detail, either. It was really cool.
I think Sophia was most excited about all the scenery and taxidermied animals, though I'm not quite sure she realized most of them were stuffed!
This guy sure wasn't! Or was he? You decide.
Soph and Rob made sure I noticed the deer "running" around overhead, on one end of the massive store.
Yep, definitely plenty to see!
Jack climbed onto this Arctic Cat ATV, which was a wee bit too big for him - but he didn't care. Look at that grin!
Meanwhile, Chloë was petting this, um, dead pig thing. Wild boar, I guess? Maybe?
I just liked the look of all the rods displayed together like that...
Chloë definitely found an ATV she liked!
And this one suited Sophia perfectly. She may be a tomboy, but she's all girl when it comes to pink and purple.
Ahh, here's one that's more Jack's size. Now if only we had a few extra grand...
Always the lawbreaker, there's Sophia climbing again, this time into a speed boat. Can't blame her. I love them, too!
I was so glad to capture this moment, as it is truly rare, much more so than one of Jack's genuine camera smiles. They play together nicely half the time, but the other half - watch out! (And yes, I have to point out how one has a tush that fills out her jeans nicely, while the other can barely keep her pants up. Hehe.)
Oh, now we're back to petting stuffed animals. Lynx? Bobcat? I have no clue.
No doubt about what this is. P-U!
Jack's checking out the turtles, and probably thinking, "How can I get in there?"
They even left no stone unturned when it came to the ceilings. So fascinating.
After that, Rob helped each of the kids with their target practice. They must have played that game ten times. I got bored and went and bought a bag of hot nuts. I do like some hot nuts. ;)
Love the look of concentration on Chloë's face here.
...And Sophie the lefty's turn.
Look out, deer!
Checking out something, with a temporary friend, maybe? They make lots of those.
After that, I sent Rob to roam around and look at stuff with the kids, while I did a little shopping. Probably a little too much, but I got some great deals on some things they could really use - and have - sooo... Later, at our resort suite, I presented their goodies with much fanfare. I'm a fan of, uh, that.
Okay, so the fishing poles and tackle boxes were Rob's idea, and they LOVE them. Rob has taken them fishing a billion times since then, so those were completely worthwhile.
The net was to go along with the fishing gear, and the Bug Jug was to replace Jack's bug kit from camp the previous summer, which Sophia had broken. He was utterly dismayed about that, and just as thrilled to get a new one. He's forever wanting to put bugs in there and look at them, too!
Name placemats, for dinnertime. Well, anytime, duh. Of course, we never find anything with the right ë, but she's used to that! I do remember they used them for every meal we ate at the resort after that! Now, they rarely get used but once in a while.
Jack needed a coat, and I found an awesome one for him on clearance. Chloë got the wildlife puzzle, and Sophia was given a camp activity book and another chirpy bird. This time, a cardinal. (When we went to Beaver Lake in my hometown, she picked out a goldfinch. She's a big fan of birds, too.)
The hats and mittens were on deep clearance, too. Don't they look so cute?
You can't see, but Jack's watch has cars on it. Chloë's has hearts, and Sophia's has penguins, which are one of her favorite animals. I figured it was time to teach them how to tell time. Unfortunately, these watches are lost and found all. the. time.
For dinner that night, we did the Japanese hibatchi thing. We've only done that with the kids one other time, so when I found a good coupon for one around the corner from where we were staying, we jumped on it. One of the two sisters sharing our table took the picture for us. Those two girls got a huge kick out of just about everything my kids said!
So yum. We got some hibatchi AND some sushi, which of course was waaay too much for my little pouch - lucky for Rob!
Great. Now I'm craving some. As a totally irrelevant and probably uninteresting aside, I can NOT eat rice at all except as part of sushi. Must be the stickiness that lets me eat it?
This guy was HEE-larious - and very talented, too! He threw food into everyone's mouth and, as is usually the case at a hibatchi, did all manner of other tricks. Love those restaurants. Have you never been? You must try it!
This part always scares the kids! Well, both times it has.
Time to cook the food. I am a major fan of scallops, and Rob is quite the opposite, so I get them every chance I get. These did not disappoint. Mmm-mmm-mmm!
For a little treat later that night, I gave the kids these other lollies, which I'd also picked up at the Stampede. I'm a sucker, I know. (pun intended. heh heh)
Obligatory candy pose. Oh, wait, I'm not supposed to show you this. Let's fix that, in case that meany hate-mail lady is still reading, shall we?
There. Better? :P
Eh, feckit. They wound down a little with some telly before bed. And yes, I know, they shouldn't be still sucking their thumbs. It's hard to give up!
I can't remember what this was. Hot cocoa, maybe? I probably didn't need to include this shot, but this post is already picture-crazy, so why not?
We checked out the next morning and drove up to St. Louis for my own personal yarn shopping spree at The Loopy Ewe, which I already told you about here. And then we went west again, to meet Uncle Mike and his kiddos for dinner at Sycamore, a kind of spontaneous decision that I'm so glad we made, because it was (a) delicious, (b) loads of fun, and (c) great for the brothers to do some up-catching.
Harry and Liz, Sycamore regulars
Uncle Mike giving Sophie a little QT.
Mike's kids LOVE mussels and get them every time they eat at their dad's restaurant. Crazy, no? My kids wouldn't touch those in a million years, so good for them!
After dinner, during much of which I chased the five children around the upscale, fancy restaurant to help keep them in line while the menfolk chatted, we decided it was too soon to say our good-byes, so we chose to go to a nearby park to play. First, though, the kids wanted to look in the fountain and sculpture outside the restaurant.
I love the way Harry is beaming up at Chloë here!
And look at Elizabeth, taking off her shoes and socks to dip her feet in the freezing cold water, without a care in the world! Silly girl. She reminds me of Sophia, that way!
At the park, it was even colder, so (much to Jack's chagrin), I put his new coat on Liz to keep her warm. Then the three of us parents chased the five kids - especially frequent escapee Harry - around the park for an age or two. It was loads of fun; we all had a blast, I think!
And then, it was over, and we hugged and kissed and maybe some of us cried a little, and there were promises to keep in touch, and that was it. Back into the van, to head back home here to VA.
So that was Missouri, with all its bluffs and natural expanses we don't see much of here,
... oh, and we can't forget our snapshot from Dolly's show, now, can we?
But one last thing.
In West VA, where we made that rest stop and stopped at the artisans' village, and where I picked up that coal train for Mamacita, I snapped this picture of handmade kitchen utensils on a kind of tree, because it looked cool and stuff.
And I plucked this egg separator off that tree, and yes, I have used it many times since then. Sometimes I forget we have it, but when I remember, it works great!
And oh, gosh, I'm a terrible mother, because look what I got for the children again?! That's it. No more crap when we go places. (I promise they don't eat like this all the time, at home!)
And last, but not least, a coal German Shepherd Dog for Rob, in honor of our former pooch, Tiger Lily. It sits on his dresser. She isn't doing well, so soon, ... well, I don't want to end on that note.
It was a fantastic trip, and I'm thrilled we were able to go. Even more so that this post finally got written, sheesh! It took me HOURS, so if any of you actually read it, please comment and say so. And thanks.