To kick of the start of summer vacation, we spent the day bumming with Grandpa and Derik. We started off with a family favorite, the A Maze'n Farmyard. The kids love petting and holding all the animals. (Caleb loved the parakeet aviary!) Here's Nora and Anna with some bunnies.

Anna with a bunny Nora with two bunnies

Caleb eyed up a turtle;

Caleb holding a turtle

and snuggled with a duckling.

Caleb holding a duck

Corbin and the girls loved the kittens.

Corbin and the girls holding kittens

They all particularly enjoyed the chicken coop. After running around trying to catch a chicken, I had to show them how it's done.

Shannon holding a chicken

Caleb was proud to finally nab one, too.

Caleb holding a chicken

Outside the barn, Alex spotted a camel posing by a funny sign...

Camel looking over a sign saying don't feed the horse

They sized each other up, but neither could tell which one was the horse...

Nora was thrilled to see they had her favorite bird, the emu:

An emu

and Caleb found a baby goat to love.

Caleb, Grandpa, and Anna with a baby goat

Our old favorite, the rubber ducks and the water pumps was fun. Anna insisted: "I do it!!!"

Anna working a pump

Alex and Rosa at the pumps

Rosa and Nora rode some ponies.

Rosa and Nora on ponies

And little Miss I-do-it(!) had her first ever pony ride, too.

Anna on a pony

The kids (and Lee) shot down the big slide for a while.

Lee and Anna on the slide

They also enjoyed some "moon jumping."

Nora jumping

We wrapped it up with a trip through the maze. The goal is to stamp a card at each of the 5 check-points. The younger ones had trouble finding tower 2, and were excited when Corbin found the way.

They all did it! Here they are, showing of the completed cards:

Alex, Caleb, Corbin, Rosa, and Nora with the cards completed

We all had an ice cream break,

Rosa, Caleb, Corbin, and Nora eating ice cream

then headed over to Sibley State Park. We started with a quick jaunt up Mount Tom. The views are always awe inspiring.

a panoramic view

another view

Rosa and Nora patiently waited down below while I figured out the panorama feature on the camera.

Rosa and Nora with grandpa

Lee stuck with the good ol' (very old!) video camera.

From there we decided to hit the beach. The walk started off pleasant enough, and I got some nice shots of some wildflowers (they are in the nature gallery) and the kids.

The kids pose on a log

Soon, though, as we got deeper into the forest, a mysterious sound was all around it. It sounded like rain hitting the forest floor, but there wasn't a cloud in the sky! Finally Derik figured it out; caterpillars, thousands of them, were dropping down from the leaves on silk threads.

Lots of caterpillars on some leaves Another shot of the caterpillars.

We were soon practically running through the forest, picking the critters off each others clothing and hair. Only Anna was unimpressed by the powerful army.

Anna sleeping on Shannon's shoulder

We all breathed a sign of relief when the beach came into view. The kids immediately started wading.

Corbin wading

They gave chase (and caught!) some minnows.

Dozens of minnows in the shallows

Alex tinkered with the new camera a bit.

Alex with the camera

A bird kept flying above the swimming area, then suddenly diving straight down into the water. It was cool to see, and Alex's quick reflexes even caught a shot of him in the act.

A bird flying just above the water

Our next outing with Grandpa and Derik proved to be a bit more relaxing. We went to a local lake that also has a little arboretum next to it. I took lots of neat flower shots (you can view those in the garden gallery), and posed the kids in front of a flaming hot pink flowering bush.

The kids in front of the bush

The kids thought the flowers a bit boring; they were itching to go down to the lake. It was so relaxing, with a nice lake breeze cooling us off.

Corbin and Grandpa looking out at the lake

After relaxing for a bit,

Lee relaxing

we started shell seeking.

The kids and Lee comb the beach

Corbin quickly found some tiny snail shells.

Corbin collecting shells

Rosa was thrilled to find some treasures.

Rosa showing off her shells

Nora couldn't resist getting a bit wet.

Nora jumping into the water

Anna decided the sand was wonderful, and started rolling gleefully around in it.

Anna in the sand

Anna in the sand

Anna in the sand

The next day, Nora didn't feel well. By mid afternoon, she wouldn't walk ("because it hurts when I walk"), and stopped eating or drinking. She also developed a fever. That evening, we decided to take her to the hospital. It turned out to be the right thing to do. At midnight, she had emergency surgery to remove her appendix. All went well, and the next morning all her siblings went up to see her.

The kids around Nora's bed at the hospital

She bravely showed off where the doctor operated.

Nora showing off her surgery site.

Nora had one mission: to go home. The doctor told her once she was up and moving around, could eat without getting sick, and use the bathroom, she was free to go. Nora took up the challenge. She ran up and down the hallways, with the nurse running after her holding her IV bag, she ate chocolate milk shakes for breakfast and didn't flinch. She ran in and used the bathroom several times. (barely giving us enough time to unplug her IV unit!) So that afternoon, she got the all-clear to go home! She was thrilled.

Nora in the van, ready to go home

She has since fully recovered, and proudly shows off her scar to all who mention her ordeal.

The girls quickly got back into their play routine. They even beautified Lee.

Lee and the girls

Nora was also so happy to get back to her new cat, Luigi. He has proved to be quite the snuggler.

Nora with Luigi

Caleb's big summer project was to build an aviary for his 5 Budgies (also called Parakeets). He thought up the design, and got to work.

Caleb drilling in screws

Soon it started to take shape.

Caleb and Rosa in the aviary

He even showed Edward (the bird) his progress.

Caleb, Nora, Rosa, and Edward in the aviary

Here is a view from where the door will be:

Caleb and Rosa in the aviary

After a couple weeks of work, it was done!

Caleb letting Edward loose in the finished aviary

The only bad side effect of all the drilling, hammering, and sawing was that Anna decided she would be scared of all the noise. Alex took it upon himself to "hide" her.

Anna inside Alex's shirt

The aviary now is full of perches, bird toys, and 6 very content Budgies! (That's right, he gained another bird shortly after completing their new home!

the completed aviary

We can't believe the summer is going by so quickly! We still have much planned for this summer, but that is another adventure.

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