Saturday, January 22, 2011

Winter Break at the Mall

The Whomptons do not frequent malls -- especially not during winter holiday shopping craziness season -- but we were stuck for ideas of how to occupy the girls on a ridiculously cold and snowy day.  So, we decided to go to the Saint Louis Mills mall because it was big (therefore lots of walking and hopefully wearing out of children), there was an indoor playground, and maybe, because of its size, there would be something or someone interesting to see. 

Well, the Mills is really an outlet mall, which we did not realize before going, but it didn't change the effects of what we accomplished.  The girls walked the entire mall, which did wear them out.  We ventured into a variety of discounted toy stores and scored a ferocious stuffed tiger lovey for Lola, a new set of puzzles, new bath toys for the girls, and the classic Fisher Price cash register toy.  Fabulous find!  Krystal and Eric shopped in the Kitchen Outlet Store -- new cutting boards!  an old fashioned timer!  a new spatula!  -- and Samantha found a pair of khaki pants that fit, an item she has coveted for years.  Much success had by all.

Okay, this picture is not from the mall trip.  I think it's from a Daddy-Raina trip to Nashville and they stopped somewhere for a meal.  I just think Raina is precious here.

Here are the girls ready to venture forth.  I think this is Lola's second experience with a mall. 

The girls investigate the play space.
 And slide, slide, slide towards freedom.

Unfortunately, malls don't open as early as, say, Target, so our window of opportunity pushed up against lunch and naptime.  Lola started to melt down and the Whomptons caved on the "no eating at national chains" principle and settled for the lesser of evils that were available at the mall.  It was Chevy's.  Let me tell you, Chevy's is a terrible place to dine.  The food is subpar, we all felt terrible after, and, sadly enough, we felt like we were cheating on our traditional Mexican restaurant.  But they fed us, which is why we look so happy in these pictures.

Hanging out with Stephanie

The Whomptons were overjoyed to host Stephanie for a long weekend.  We did all sorts of active outdoorsy things, even though it was very, very cold.  Our first trip was to the STL Zoo.  Here are all the girls, decked out in winter wear, and ready to see birds, primates, otters, lions, and prairie dogs.

Taking a break at the primate house.  Lola sat down on the bench and demanded that we join her.  She's a bossy one, our little Lola, but it made for a nice picture.

And then, on Monday, we ditched Lola at daycare and went for really active fun.  We introduced Stephanie to the City Museum and, really, there's no way to prepare someone for the experience except to say "You're going to crawl a lot, have tons of fun, be wowed and terrified simultaneously, and walk away with scrapes and bruises."  We all had a blast.  Here's Stephanie zooming down a ridiculously-painful-on-the-bum slide.
 And then popping out of an underground tunnel.

Yes, that's exactly what I felt like after completing a 10 story spiral slide.  I managed not to puke, but just barely.

Samantha crawls out of the cave creature's mouth.  Or submits willingly to being eaten.  You choose.

Stephanie looks ready to rip out its teeth and leap to safety. 

Raina rode a tiger,
 delighted in the peanut butter and apple lunch break,
and roasted marshmallows for the very first time.  We were lucky to have a marshmallow roasting expert with us, because she offered plenty of advice about positioning for optimal golden browning.  Roasted marshmallows are mighty fine.

Stephanie's last day here saw her geocaching in the snow with Eric and hauling our new super-sized microwave back to our house.  (It was too large for our compact cars to carry.  Wow.)  We loved having her here and cannot wait for her to return to STL again.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Indoor activities

It's cold, it's snowy, it's dark, and we're trapped inside with two young girls.  These are the activities / games that occupy our kids together, for a little while at least. 

- puzzles
- playing pictionary on the DoodlePro
- going shopping, which is very cute.  They put on their shoes, grab canvas bags, and stuff them with items from the house.  Occasionally they check out with the cash register.  I love when Lola says "I shopping!"
- reading books, and sometimes reading them to each other
- chasing each other in loops around the house
- racing with push toys around the house
- stomping with boots and bats around the house
- pretend cooking in the kiddie kitchen
- rolling balls back and forth
- throwing balls up or down the stairs and squealing as the balls bounce everywhere
- ripping off the couch cushions and blankets to make forts
- ripping off the couch cushions to make big jumping mats
- being leapfrog monsters (like normal frogs, except they tickle creatures who are not also leapfrog monsters).  Lola practices this one solo too and we'll occasionally hear her go "ribbit, ribbit" as she leapfrogs through a room.
- coloring

For a while we included play-doh in this list, but now our carpet is stained with blue, pink, and red spots ... no more play-doh for us.  We also watched our first movie together as a five-person-family on the most recent snow day.  Lola was entranced for 45 minutes and then she ran around like a crazy kid, which was our signal to stop watching the TV.  Raina will have to watch the end of Enchanted some other time!

I often wonder, as I watch my children occasionally descend into screaming pits of despair, how in the world did large families survive in close, cramped quarters with little heat, little entertainment, lots of work, and no way to escape each other?!  I really question this when I'm home alone with sick kids and their grumpiness levels are off the charts.  But, really, a little perspective is all I need, because I have a very lucky situation.  I just throw another idea off this list to the kids and then I rejoice that they claim it and go play together again.  Awesome.

The Whompton girls are puzzle fiends!

Raina LOVED puzzles when she was younger -- she still does, in fact -- but she devoured them when she was in the 1.5 - 3 years range.  She did the simple peg puzzles, advanced to simple jigsaw puzzles, then 24 piece puzzles, then 48 piece puzzles, then 63 piece puzzles.  At that point we stopped giving her puzzles; she was too small to reach across puzzles larger than those without accidently breaking them apart.  And then Lola arrived and having teeny-tiny puzzle pieces out was a babyproofing no-no.  Raina hasn't done many puzzles in the last 2.5 years, which is a shame because she enjoyed them so much.

Lola wasn't as game-on to puzzles as Raina was, and then suddenly something switched and Lola has become a puzzle fanatic.  At least once a day we'll hear her say "I go play puzzle."  (This is especially well timed, because the STL winter weather this year has been frightful and all calm indoor activities are welcome.)  We pulled out all the peg puzzles, which she has mastered, and so we broke out the simple jigsaws.  Lola is definitely in the trial and error strategy faze of puzzles -- she's not looking for or recognizing patterns of matching pieces -- so putting together jigsaws is a time-consuming affair.  Tonight, though, she practiced on a 9 piece puzzle six straight times and got her overall time down to about 2 minutes!  Practice, practice, practice, Lola!  We obtained four new 12 piece jigsaws for her, and I cannot wait to see how she responds to those next. 

And, of course, the girls play puzzles together.  Raina is incredibly patient with Lola and she tries her best to help out her little sister.  It's wonderful to see. 

The corollary joy is that Raina has rediscovered puzzles.  She has re-worked all the puzzles in her puzzle bin -- including 100 piece puzzles in the space of 15 minutes -- and she received some new ones from family members over the holidays, so she has novelty in some puzzles.  But, clearly, it's time to upgrade for her too.  Is there something in between 100 and 250 pieces?  I hope so.