Friday, September 23, 2011

Elementary Round-up/Preschool Corner/Weekly Wrap-up/It's Playtime!

Last week, the kids and I were fortunate enough to join my husband on his business trip in Dallas. We knew he would be very busy with work, but we planned on relaxing in the hotel with our schoolwork and finding great restaurants and museums to visit all week.

The thing I don't like about Dallas is the traffic. I mean, truly, I think I prefer driving in L.A. and NYC. We did venture off to a few great vegetarian restaurants (here's one), but we ended up spending a lot of our time right next door to our hotel - at the Grapevine Mills Mall, just because it was easier.

We had never been here, and in fact, we RARELY go to malls period. We rarely go shopping at all, so it was pretty fun. I remembered why I rarely go to malls; I strive to be as unmaterialistic as possible, but I become intoxicated by all of the clothes, etc., especially at the children's stores. Tornado found a rolling backpack for only $8 at Gap; (and I had almost spent $60 on one the other day!) he really needed one for all of his heavy books and folders at our home school co-op. And of course, Sissy found some cute clothes. Unborn Baby Junior also scored a few cute hats and outfits.

So this was sort of my goal going into the mall: take our time and just have fun. That seems like common sense enough. But I feel like I'm always rushing the kids, always on our way from Point A to Point B. And I don't generally like to spend money on certain things. However, I decided that since this was our mini-vacation, I would let the kids go into any store they wanted and take part in any activity they wanted.

First up was Euro Bobbles, one of the many activities in the center aisle of the mall. My 6 year old wanted to do this. For $7 (which gets you 3 minutes), you crawl into a big, deflated ball which is then inflated.

And you get to roll around in a big pool of water, try to walk, etc. Well, Dash was in there for about one minute before he panicked to get out. (You couldn't hear him, just see his wide eyes and mouth moving, "Let me out!" He said he couldn't breathe (and I think it was just hard to maneuver), even though there is plenty of air in there.

The lady got him out and let my 4 year old daughter use up the remaining time.

She was giggly and had more fun in there than he did. I don't blame him, though. I would have been claustrophobic, too.

There was a Hurricane-Simulator booth, and I excitedly asked Tornado (my storm-obsessed child) if he wanted to get in it. This was his immediate reaction (above). He was clutching his throat with one hand and covering his face with the other. Sheer panic and terror. I've had to explain to people before that even though he loves watching storm videos, reading about storms, talking about them - he does NOT enjoy being IN them. He did not want to go in; the other two wanted to go in, but they wouldn't do it unless their big brother was in their to protect them. So we moved on to the next thing.

See - really; it's the little things that are the most fun to them. We stood here as long as they wanted while I fed them penny after penny to release in the charity funnel.

My 6 year old actually did this activity the next day on our return visit. He really wanted to do it, but this also ended up really scaring him (although I think he would say overall it was fun). He's such an adventurous kid, always up to something, but when it comes down to it, he's all talk. He gets so nervous and hesitant, and he inherited my self-consciousness. The harness/trampoline takes you pretty high into the air.

One of the great things at this mall is the LEGOLAND Discovery Center (one of many locations in the U.S. and overseas). We went back the next day for our visit here. I had wanted to peek in (our first day) and make sure it was something we even wanted to do (since it is pricey - around $17/adult & $13/child IF you buy them online; they're more at the door).

Well, one peek inside was all it took to convince my kids. Tornado, in particular, couldn't wait to go to sleep the night before because he knew the quicker he went to sleep, the sooner we would start our day at LEGOLAND. I love that innocent kind of wonder.

I had read a few reviews on Trip Advisor, etc. that said a visit here was not worth the money. For us, I thought it was. I think they really make it seem kind of spectacular for the kids. After you pay, you wait for your "tour" to start. You can play with Legos outside the door as it counts down time, then the door opens, and you are greeted by Professor Brick-a-Brack. It's not an actual factory, of course - but this pretend version of one which is used to explain the process in which Legos are made. My kids liked this.

At the end of the talk, they make it seem like special Legos come out of the machine especially for this group of kids. They each get a wrapped, souvenir-logo Lego to take home.

Then they are immediately ushered into the first ride (which you could skip if you wanted to). They also liked this. It's a laser shooting type ride in which you earn points from hitting the targets. This is the thing I don't like about the whole Lego world; there are some scary Lego figures, which we don't own, like ghoulish ones and skeleton-faced ones - and ones with scary weapons. I just don't like that stuff, and I think it's unnecessary for kids. There was that sort of thing on this ride (including the fact that you're essentially shooting the bad guys), so skip this ride if you don't like that.

The main draw for my kids was the multi-level play area. (Tornado: top right corner)

I was worried that my 11 year old would be too tall to enter. I asked them the day before if he'd be too tall, but the guys were sort of like, "Eh, it's fine; it's really that we just don't want rambunctious teenagers mixed in with the little kids." He made the 4'9" cut, regardless, but it was close.

One great thing about LEGOLAND for my waddly pregnant self was the ability to sit for long periods and watch the kids play. (The whole place is designed with the perfect mixture of parent/child interaction and solo child play.) They stayed at this roll-y slide for quite awhile. If you look closely, you can see that Sissy's pants accidentally came down a time or two when Dash playfully grabbed at her. To tell me about it, he whispered through the net, "I have to tell you a secret, and it's REALLY EMBARRASSING!"

There is another ride (that just goes around and around, but you can also make it go up and down by pedaling). It totally made me nauseous, even though the lady assured me that it wouldn't. And I'm sure it was quite a sight to see a large pregnant woman, trying with all her might, to pedal her car up into the air. (I rode with Sissy, and they got an employee to ride with Dash since kids can't ride alone.)

One big room (Mini-Land) is filled with miniature Lego cities (including Dallas, even the Dallas ranch) and towns. The lights in the buildings even come on as the overhead lights dim occasionally.

There is also a theater (the size of an actual small movie theater) inside the discovery center. There are three 15 minute 4-D movies. We ended up watching two of them, back to back. The kids thought they were cute. It's very interactive; they even spray a fine mist (you don't really get wet) of water across the crowd when the 4-D water seems to be coming out at you.

There are many Lego stations where the kids can create,

a big, slide play area,

and EVEN...a Princess Palace,

complete with karaoke. My princess wasted no time getting up on stage.

There are bins where you can create your own Lego cars,

and different ramps where you can race them against each other.

throwing coins in the crocodile's (alligator's?) mouth outside the Rainforest Cafe gift shop

My big surprise for the kids was lunch at Rainforest Cafe, which is also inside the mall. They were super excited when they'd seen the signs the day before. (They knew about Rainforest Cafe from television commercials and always declared they wanted to go there.)

It was hard to get pictures inside the cafe because it is so dark. The lighting actually changes, including light and sound changes for storms while you are dining. It really is decorated amazingly with huge fish tanks and large, life-like animals that really move and make noises.

There were a couple of vegetarian options on the menu for the kids. The great thing was that we were able to play at LEGOLAND for about an hour and a half, get our hands stamped, eat lunch, then return for another hour to play.

I promised the kids (with good behavior) they could pick out something in the gift shop. The boys each chose a $3 "mystery" pack. They've gotten these before, and we think they're pretty fun. You don't know what miniature Lego character you're going to get. They also got to create their own Lego characters to take home. They chose the faces, hair or hat, shirt, and legs.

Then, they got to put them in these empty packages to be rung up and purchased. I thought this was a fun idea.

Back at the Hotel
I've said it before: some of my favorite moments in life are the ones when I see my kids cuddling up together without any prompting from me. This was first thing in the morning, and although they hadn't all three slept together, somehow they all ended up like this while they were trying to wake up.

Life in General This Week
This week has been a crazy mass of preschool, homeschool co-op, soccer, ballet, Awanas, piano lessons, 2 field trips, and grocery shopping. All weeks of my life are busy naturally, but THIS WEEK...somehow from Tuesday upon waking until...well...right now, I haven't stopped. Ryan keeps laughing at me (good-naturedly, of course) because I have only been able to "hobble" the past two days - I've run myself down so much, my back and legs are aching. I was so tired, I slept through my alarm (on my phone) twice, making us rush to get ready for our morning obligations.

Fun Friday Night and Upcoming Plans
Tonight was a really sweet night which included a dance party and watching parts of old videos (some I don't think I've ever watched back) of the boys when they were little and chubby-faced. I totally cried (especially listening to my 11 year old babbling before he could even talk!), and it made me additionally excited about having another baby. My goal in the upcoming month is to get all of our videos transferred to DVD, with extra copies for the safety deposit box.

Linkin' up:
Elementary Round-Up, hosted by Granola Mom 4 God
Weekly Wrap-Up, hosted by Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers
It's Playtime!, hosted by hands on: as we grow, The Imagination Tree, Messy Kids, Quirky Momma, and Let the Children Play
Preschool Corner, hosted by Homeschool Creations

weekly wrap-upGranola Mom 4 God

It's Playtime at hands on : as we grow


Jodi said...

Wow!!!!! What a great scrapbook of your time away! Legoland looks fun. I guess I live in a bubble . . . I didn't know there was one. My boys would LOVE that. Glad you were able to relax and enjoy . . . thanks so much for linking up!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm hoping to take my son to LegoLand next spring! We just had our videos transferred to DVD's and it is great being able to pop them in and watch them.