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Birthdays with Grandchildren add Some Spice to Life

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We are still in Missouri which is unheard of since we began living full time in our motor home. The weather has made us wonder if we need our heads examined. We keep telling ourselves this is why we haven't done this before. We were going to be here later than usual this year and we have two grandchildren with June birthdays we haven't celebrated with them for a while so, why not make the best of it?

Kaitlyn is six years old this year. For her birthday she chose to go to the Magic House (www.magichouse.org) in Webster Groves, Missouri. As a teacher I had been there many times before, even taken groups of students numerous times. The Magic House has grown since I was last there! They have a large parking lot and on a weekday it was packed. Inside the place was swarming with children. It was noisy with kids everywhere. Kaitlyn and her brother Ryan fell in with the crowd quickly. There were dress up costumes in story land and a beanstalk for the kids to get from floor to floor. They could navigate that faster than adults on the stairs. There were mysteries to be solved complete with revolving bookcases and hidden rooms. The kids could crawl through the duct work to find clues and then go through the fireplace into the next room. There were slides, puzzles, a shadow wall with a strobe light to record your movements on the wall. The kids and adults played with one thing after another. Both of them enjoyed the rooftop garden. With plastic vegetables in a mock garden, they could harvest their crop and then cook and eat in the kid size house. Kaitlyn did a thorough job of sweeping out and cleaning the house while Ryan re-planted the vegetable garden before we could leave this exhibit. This attraction rivals any I have seen for activities you can touch and do. Louise and I have a tradition of being swept out of places by the cleaning crew at closing time and this was no exception. The children were going to be sure they got their money's worth. Dinner at a local favorite Italian restaurant finished Kaitlyn's birthday celebration.

Just over a week later, Ryan had his 9th birthday. Given his choice, Ryan will ask to go to the St. Louis Zoo. Perhaps it was the hot weather and some encouragement from Mom that led him to choose the City Museum (www.citymuseum.org). Located in downtown St. Louis, the City Museum is a unique collection of urban discards from factory machinery, stores, banks, buildings and other items. You can't possibly see everything there is to see here. The ceilings, walls and floor are covered in items from the city. There is an extensive climbing area outside the museum that goes up three stories to several airplane fuselages then on to other items like a crane, tree house, and much more. You can enter this corridor made mostly of tubes constructed of rebar from several points in the museum. Within the museum, every surface is covered with things to see and do. A two story slide is covered with conveyor rollers so as kids slide down they can hold their hands up and spin the rollers as they slide down to the first floor. Ryan immediately headed for the aquarium and we spent over an hour looking at all the animals. There were sharks and rays to touch. Docents brought around snakes and turtles for children to touch. Both Ryan and Kaitlyn were turtle rustlers for the turtle race. Even in the aquarium there were tunnels everywhere for the kids to crawl through. They would disappear in one place and we never knew where they would reappear. Another area had skateboard type surfaces for the kids to run and slide on. Another extended time here. You just can't wear out the kids. Once again, we were among the last to leave the museum. After leaving the City Museum, we stopped at Lambert International Airport to pick up Louise who had been in Kansas City trying out for Jeopardy! This is her second try to get on the program. She qualified last time but they select from the pool of qualified applicants by a random process and she wasn't chosen within the year of her qualification so she had to try out again. Our final stop for the evening was Canoli's Restaurant in Florissant, Missouri. This restaurant has been a favorite of Louise and I for many years. We enjoyed sharing it with our daughter and her family.

About a week before all the above started, we spent a Sunday afternoon with my daughter and her family. The four of them, Louise and I all rode about a seven mile stretch of the Katy Trail State Park (www.mostateparks.com/katytrail). The Katy Trail is a rails to trails park that starts in St. Charles, Missouri and follows the Missouri River westward almost 3/4 of the way across the state. Ryan has his own bicycle and did the complete 14 mile round trip on his own. Kaitlyn has a half bicycle that attaches to dad's bike. She can pedal or coast as she pleases. We rode, drank water, ate strawberries and apples we carried with us and picked mulberries off the trees along the trail. As we packed up our bicycles, we decided that pizza was the perfect end to the day so it was off to CJ's Pizza in Foristell, Missouri.

One of the treats of living in St. Louis is the excellent theater we have at the Muny Opera (www.muny.org). In an outdoor setting in Forest Park, site of the 1904 Worlds Fair, is a theater which seats nearly 13,000 people. We took the children to the Muny Opera for a production of Annie on Tuesday, the 27th. We were prepared for hot weather with cool drinks and wet cloths. It turned out to be quite a comfortable evening. Both children enjoyed their first theater production.

This afternoon the kids came to the door of the motor home and asked me to go for a hike in the woods with them. Ryan had the Rocks and Minerals book that he got for his birthday and he wanted to go find some rocks. We hiked down to the creek and searched for rocks along the creek. We found several but Ryan was most interested in just exploring the woods and stream. Kaitlyn was always out in front, often somewhat off course. I had to keep guiding her back toward the house on our return home. Being with the children keeps us young.

We'll be leaving here soon but staying here in Missouri with our children and grandchildren has been a wonderful experience we hope to repeat often in the future.

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