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by April

July 15, 2017 Day 11 Delray Beach, FL–Everglades

July 16, 2017 in Uncategorized by April

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There is now a family tradition of visiting Everglades National Park in the most mosquito infested time of the year.  Scott had the opportunity to do so when he was a kid and he has now passed on the beautiful tradition to our children.  When Scott was a kid he even had the opportunity to camp in the ninety degree, high-humidity heat and go on a hike. We gave our kids the same opportunity today, but somehow they didn’t bite.  No pun intended.  Okay.  It was totally intended.  We were very underdressed compared to the others, less than ten, who also joined us at the Flamingo Visitor Center on a beautiful Saturday. Many of the national parks we visit our swamped on the weekend. Again pun totally intended. The experts at Flamingo Visitor Center all had on long sleeves, cargo pants, hats, and nets. We coated ourselves in bug spray and suntan lotion, but somehow we were still walking tasty morsels for the mosquitos.  Every now and then I might exaggerate on a few things, so let’s check the Skeeter Meter at the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, the first visitor station that we stopped at.

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Hmm… It appears the mosquitos are only between Ruthless and Severe.  What does it say in the little note section? “Mosquito intensity in/around Flamingo is much higher than in the rest of the park.”  The Everglades cover an expansive area and we are headed right to the only section they mention as being highly intense. Hmm…  How bad could it be? 

The first people we saw in the mostly empty parking lot were running and waving their limbs squealing as they ran from their car to the visitors’ center. This could be what the ranger at the Coe Center said, “You’ll be fine out on the water, but getting into the water…well, you’re in for a real surprise.”

Canoe trip from Flamingo Visitors’ Center into Florida Bay in Everglades National Park 11:15 – 1:15

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We were close to the same line of latitude as Key Largo.  The mosquitos really got us when we crossed the grass in the parking lot. This picture makes me laugh because it was about at this point that I was squirming every which way trying to bat off the skeeters while Brooke thoughtfully took her time getting into the canoe.  I was trusting the ranger when he said that once we got on the water the blood sucking would stop.  Thankfully, once we got on the boat and into the bay the beauty and peace unfolded before us.

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The Flamingo Visitor Center was a long pink building.  This part in between the mangrove trees was where we saw the most jumping fish.  We also saw heron, osprey, and a pink roseate spoonbill.  The spoonbill looks like a short flamingo.  There were a lot more varieties of birds that we saw, but we aren’t expert enough to know exactly what they were.  Our favorite bird was the tiniest bird that sounded like some small children we know when they don’t want to wake up early in the morning. Despite being a tiny bird its sound filled the entire bay.

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There were jumping fish all over the place.  They were so fast it was hard to catch a glimpse of them let alone a picture.  Cody said, “I think the fish keep coming near the boat because they are catching mosquitos and I am mosquito ice cream.”  We still haven’t figure out any scientific evidence as to why, but for some reason the mosquitos would much rather munch on Cody and I than Scott or Brooke.  Scott used to tease that it was what we ate, but even when we eat the same foods they still prefer Cody and I over Brooke and Scott.  So if you ever need mosquito protection Cody and I can serve as your mosquito distraction/protection. 

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We were bird watching the entire trip.  One came in our direction and Cody said, “Look Dad!  It’s coming at us like a flying torpedo!”

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LOL

We had to coordinate our paddling efforts because now with the kids being bigger and actually paddling more, we were all knocking into each other up front.  Scott was sitting comfortably with a spacious area in the back.  He would splash us every now and then as the sun was warm.  We talking about the need to move into two boats instead of one now that the kids are older.  We might be looking into sea kayaks. 

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The camera was a little water covered after I splashed backwards with the bailer.  It is supposed to be used to get water out of the boat, but I figured Scott needed some cooling off too.

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There are at least ten other pictures of me using expert ninja skills to attack the mosquitos that followed us into the van.  We were getting rid of mosquitos the entire two and a half hour ride back home.  Even when we arrived home some still flew out like they were waiting for their stop. 

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I was still attacking the mosquitos as was the rest of the family and Cody was plugged into his tablet.  This is why we save tablets for car rides only.  Life could easily pass you by while you’re on a device.  I mean who wouldn’t want to have the memory of being trapped in a van with thousands of mosquitos?

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The ranger said, “Between the barracudas, sharks, and crocs I wouldn’t suggest anyone swim in there.” Good thing we decided to only dip our legs in off the side quickly. Cody did ask to swim several times.  I may be over cautious at times, but I made the good choice not to let him swim this time. The orange cone just cracked me up.  It was a collapsible cone.  It was a good idea, but in its old age it looked more like a flopped over witch hat than a cone.

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This plaque was noting that the Everglades is a World Heritage Site. Even though it seems I am pointing at the sign in the picture, I failed to notice the sign because I was instead watching lizards with Cody. Priorities. Too funny. After some investigating I discovered that as a family we have been to twelve of the twenty-three.

List of World Heritage Sites – http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/

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On the way home we visited a Walmart in Miami with an escalator. Not far from the Walmart we also saw a man driving his wheelchair scooter down the road while using his cane for extra speed.  We headed to home base.  I made some Jiffy Jambalaya while Scott made peach cobbler and we watched part of Apollo 13 while snuggled on the couch as a family.

by April

July 7, 2017 Day 3 Springfield, MO

July 11, 2017 in Uncategorized by April

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The alarm went off at 4:30, we grabbed our swimsuits and were headed down the road to swim at the YMCA with Kayla by 4:45.  We joined the crowd waiting to open the YMCA before the sun was even ready to start the day. Kayla needed to swim for an hour and a half.  Scott and I made it a half hour.  And by saying “made it,” I am stretching a lot.  Scott was swimming most of the time.  I needed to stop at least every two laps to take a peak at the sun rise out the propped-open door and breathe. We hit the hot tub for a few minutes and then Scott headed to the locker room to bake in the sauna for a half hour.  I chose to head back to the pool and get in a few more laps. Kayla needed to head off to work and we headed back to home base in a sleepy hazy.  While we were getting gas, I eyed the donut shop across the street.  It was a good move because we had something to eat while were locked out of the sleeping house for a little bit.  We took a seat on a front step and Scott fired up a podcast on preventing procrastination while we waited.  There may be no hope for my procrastination though as I procrastinated watching the video and fell asleep sitting up.  Cody’s karate-chop-sleeping kept me up most of the night.  I could have moved from where I was attempting to sleep at any point in the night, but that seemed like way too much work. 

IMG_20170707_061656497I may be a sucker for the inspirational quotes with photos, but this one on the bulletin board at the YMCA reminded me of my first traveling adventure across the country with Scott.  We happened to miss the train home when we were in downtown Chicago on a Sunday and the next train wasn’t coming for two hours. We had only been dating eight months and Scott said, “I think we should travel the country for a year.” I did my best to explain to him that I was working full time and paying for college, that I was also attending more than full time.  I explained there was no way I could afford a trip around the country for a year.  He said, “List what you see as obstacles and let’s figure out each one.”  We got a Taco Bell bag and a pencil from someone in the Olgilvie Train Station food court and wrote it all down.  By the time our train had arrived Scott made traveling the country for a year seem like no challenge at all.

After we consumed some donuts and got back into the house, I disappeared into the basement for a little bit to catch a few minutes of rest.  The boys were busy planning the day’s adventure to Silver Dollar City. We packed lunches.  Ed ate some Lou’s for breakfast.

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Scott wanted a picture of my expert sandwich making skills.  I’m a little picky about the PB and jelly having an even layer that covers every square millimeter of the bread.

Last time we were down here we were spoiled by a visit to Silver Dollar City too.  Although, last time it was Spring Break and quite a bit colder.  Today the temperature was in the low nineties and the lines were much shorter.

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We hopped in the “Fun Mobile” and Ed drove us to Silver Dollar City.

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The girls and Scott headed towards two roller coasters first while the boys, Ed, and I headed to the giant ball launching pit.  Scott and the girls joined us and we spent the most time together there than anywhere else all day.

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Cody was excited to realize that he had grown enough so that he was in the green on all the ride height requirements. He was so excited about this that he had to check his height on each and every height requirement board, sometimes even multiple times.

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Scott and the girls headed to some more roller coasters while Ed, the boys, and I headed to a pirate ship to water down some unsuspecting park visitors.

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We found another ride that was nice and slow.  We had to pull our way up a tower and then when you let go it let you down gently.

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We enjoyed some lunch and then the girls wanted to try the same horse racing carnival game the boys had played.

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Brooke happened to win and get the large stuffed animal horse.  Ed’s little miss was slightly sad and I had suggested to Brooke to give her large horse to her friend.  The game operator saw Ed’s little Miss’ sad look and brought her a large horse, but she only wanted one horse and it wasn’t that one.  It took her a few minutes of watching her friend be sad, but Brooke finally made the right choice and gave her horse to her friend.  Scott happened to catch the moment.

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by April

July 9, 2017 Day 5 Indian Creek Reservoir, LA to Lafayette, LA

July 9, 2017 in Uncategorized by April

Scott was up by 6:30 and patiently waited for the rest of us to wake up. It was a bit of a rough night of sleeping.  We had been used to sleeping in a comfortably air conditioned basement.  It was only seventy-nine degrees, but incredibly humid.  The frogs were giving quite a show and even Cody was hoping they might have an intermission so we could slip off to sleep.

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We were surrounded by water and yet I didn’t see a single mosquito.  We discovered that we had picked quite a beautiful site despite having to choose it in the dark.

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We drove to the day use area to cook up some breakfast at a picnic table.  This is what I call a kitchen with a view.  We were surrounded by water here too.  The boys had eggs while the ladies had yogurt and cereal.

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We were on the road by 9:30 heading towards Lafayette, LA

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We stopped a little after 11 at the Vermilionville.  We learned about the history of the settlement of the area, watersheds, animals, architecture, and more.

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In the first house we entered we also learned about how the warm ocean waters cause hurricanes.

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Scott was on a mission to see an alligator.  We sat at the end of almost every pier looking into the dark water for air bubbles.  Scott wasn’t getting any gators waiting for them, so he extended an arm towards the water, I just happened to be in the way, to give the gators some bait.  Despite his extra effort no gators jumped up to greet him to Louisiana.

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In the 1910’s laws were passed banning the use of any language besides English in an effort to “Americanize” new settlers to the area.  The musician in the schoolhouse was quite knowledgeable and entertaining. He spoke about the blending of cultures in language, music, and even food.

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These are two of Scott’s favorite areas: woodwork and blacksmith shops.

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There is a tiny turtle on the pier.  Not long before we arrived there was a gator on the pier.

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The flowers and flowering trees were so beautiful.

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Scott discovered a ferry that you could pull yourself across a waterway with via a rope.

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The wreath in the picture frame is of human hair. The docent wasn’t sure of the symbolism, but was fairly certain that it wasn’t a memorial as it is a open loop rather than closed, as is customary.

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Turns out you can’t bait the alligators at this site, much to Scott’s disappointment.  As I walked back to the van I couldn’t help but notice how low to the ground the van is on our trips.

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Finally!  The Fox house!  Scott and I were here almost twenty years when we traveled the country.  Duck and Linda showed us a Mardi Gras experience we will never forget and probably will never be matched again.  Not that we would want to try, we are older now and the energy level isn’t quite what it used to be.  Well, maybe Duck’s is still the same!

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Duck’s daughter was the same age as ours.  They started off playing the game of Life.  Linda had asked what we wanted to drink ahead of time.  I had messaged back, “Surprise us!”  We were treated to Red Roosters.  The food was flowing and I may have eaten more in one afternoon than I had in the entire week, but the warm laugher that flowed filled us more than anything.

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Duck’s kids took ours down to the coulee, the creek flowing strong from the rain that had just rolled through.

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Sock it to me cake.  I had moved from the counter of food so I would stop eating and I had to ask about the cake that had a sticker on it that said, “Sock it to me.”  Turns out it is a delicious cake.  Linda, or Gammer, and Scott’s mom have been friends since childhood. She was very similar to Wendy in her continued offers to make us food and bring us anything we could possibly want. Consequently the minute I asked about it she jumped up and had a piece in front of me.  This is why I was laughing hysterically.  I was just asking about, not necessarily needing the cake.  It tasted like coffee cake covered in some extra sugar.  Mmm.  Scott really liked Linda’s nickname of Gammer.  Her first grandson couldn’t say Grandma, so she’s been Gammer ever since.

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The kids ran in the sprinkler and sprayed each other for a bit.

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Duck’s son showed Cody his Nerf gun and then they moved out back to shoot some more.

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Scott went outside to check on the boys and then he disappeared.  Turns out he was napping on the porch swing.  It was at this point that I decided we should be responsible and let the Fox Family get ready for the work week and head on down the road.  Scott had other ideas and it seemed I was the only one in the room looking to end the party.  So we stayed.

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The kids were dropping off fast, so we made up the beds on the floor and then played some Uno.  Although, most of us were so tired we might have spent more time trying to figure out whose turn it was than actually playing.  We took breaks outside to chat and to check on the kids, but it was a warm and relaxed evening filled with laughter.  I’m thankful the Fox Family was willing to keep us overnight, our cheeks were stuck in smiles as we drifted off to sleep.

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by April

July 8, 2017 Day 4 Springfield, MO to Indian Creek Reservoir, LA

July 9, 2017 in Uncategorized by April

I was hoping for one more group workout before we left.  Scott and Kayla were game and I’m glad they were.  It was an incredibly peaceful morning with the sun just coming up as the fog drifted out of the valleys. 

Our 6:15, 15 mile bike ride.

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It was probably a good thing that Ed and Kayla had places to take the kids this morning.  We were missing them before we even left.

We left Springfield at 9:05 and headed south through Arkansas towards Louisiana.

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2ish – Foraged through the food bins for something to snack/lunch on. Super fancy feast – tortillas and cookies. Our version of fast food.

We have never seen a US rest stop with the sign, “Overnight Camping Only.”  Scott was tempted to stay the night just because we could.

We have stayed overnight in our tent at an interstate rest stop only once, in British Columbia, Canada.  That was on our Alaska Adventure.  The kids were only 10 months and 3 years old at the time.  We almost didn’t stay even though the signs said we could, but some grandparents talked with us and convinced us a rest stop in Canada was much safer than one in the states.  The only thing that was scary about that rest stop campout was removing the fresh bear scat before we put our tent down.  If you have read any of our Alaska Adventure you know how afraid I was of bears back then.  Of course whenever we see a campground or camping opportunity right next to a highway Scott has to remind me of the time, long before we had children, when he wanted to find a place off the road to throw our tent for the night and I was determined to stay at a real campground.  Luckily I spotted a sign for a campground, not so luckily the campground was literally tucked underneath the Interstate.  We didn’t sleep much.  It was the beginning of the end of me requesting we always stay at a campground.  Some of our best camping memories have been in the middle of nowhere with no campground in sight.

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3:45 – We hit Texas!  The city of Texarkana to be exact.  It is on the border of Texas and Arkansas. Scott brainstormed our Texas photo before we even got there.  “T” for Texas! This is the first time the kids are in Texas!

4:30 – Louisiana! Two new states in one afternoon!

Scott was flipping radio stations and came across, “We believe in gun control. We believe it is important to hit what you are aiming at.” Scott smiled wide and said, “Well, you know we are in Louisiana.”  I remember the first time we met and stayed with Duck and her family for Mardi Gras back in March of 1998.  We were driving the famous “wedge,” a 1990 Chevy Lumina van.  Duck pointed out some guns mounted on a truck and said, “Now don’t y’all start honking your horn down here like y’all do in Chicago. You will get shot.” We have memories of going muddin’ on the levy and laughing for hours. 

We stopped at a park to make dinner.  We were going to cook up leftovers, but we realized we had no water.  Scott was going to leave us at the park and go get water.  I was not so comfortable being left at a park with the kids in an area I didn’t know, so I suggested we pack up and try a different plan.

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We went to a gas station, didn’t find any water, but Scott did spot a Little Cesear’s across the street.  While I was waiting for our pizza to cook Scott found another park in the area with good reviews.

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The park was created with a great deal of thought and care.  They had a reading trail.  The book Petit Pierre and the Floating Marsh was printed two pages at a time on displays spaced around the walking trail around the park.  The idea was that you could exercise your mind and body at the same time.  The story also shared Louisiana history and facts, like that the state bird is the brown pelican.  My favorite page was page three.  The main character of the story, Petit Pierre, was told by his mom that it was time to leave the nest and that he needed to find his own home.  The last thing he asks his mom is, “Where will I go?”  His mom responded, “Just remember, wherever you roam, friends and family are what make a home.”  That is one thing we have discovered over and over in our traveling. 

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Loved this park.

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We drove another hour after dinner to Indian Creek Reservoir.  It was 9:30 and completely dark when we arrived at the campground.  Scott did an excellent job of maneuvering around the narrow gravel roads in the dark. We stayed in the primitive area.  Sometimes primitive in a campground just means tent sites.  In this case it really meant primitive: no tables, no defined spots, just forested land.  We set up the tent and mats in less than ten minutes, but it took us much longer to adjust to the humid air.  We were thankful it wasn’t super hot, but we had been spoiled inside the air conditioned car all day.  Eventually we all settled down and drifted off to sleep to the sound of the frogs Blurping.

by April

July 6, 2017 Day 2 Springfield, MO

July 9, 2017 in Uncategorized by April

Ed surprised us with a breakfast casserole that was so good I may have eyed and eaten the leftovers the next day too. While the kids excitedly waited to hear what was in store for the day they ate some breakfast.

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Ed spoiled us at a brand new mini-golf center.  After some serious consultation on the best length golf club and color ball, the kids were ready to take on all the two courses had to offer.  One side was the International side with sites like the Egyptian pyramids and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  The other side was the United States side with the Statue of Liberty and even a Grand Canyon. The kids’ favorite holes were by far where you purposely aimed your ball for the water and it shot out of the shark’s mouth almost into the hole and a log that did the same.  There were definitely holes where the ball went into the drink unintentionally, but the kids enjoyed fishing their balls back out with the net.

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The adults were able to get in almost eighteen holes.  The kids flew threw thirty-six plus holes. Cody gave me some mini golf advice, “Hit it like this mom.”  I did my best. “Not quite like that Mom!” Exasperated he went onto the next hole.  Looks like being a professional mini-golfer is not in my future.

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The kids did a great job of taking turns and the course experts were willing to share their course secrets with us.  The course had interesting facts near most of the holes.  The plaque at the Statue of Liberty stated, “The seven points on the Statue of Liberty’s crown represent the seven continents and oceans of the world and the universal concept of liberty.”

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Back at home base for lunch Ed treated us to the Lou’s Pizza we had just brought from home for him.  He baked it to crispy perfection.  The kids played together. I loved the creativity when they turned colored pencils into the game of Pick Up Sticks.

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Lou’s was followed up with watermelon!  Brooke was really hoping to meet the three kitties hiding out somewhere in the house.  Ed shook and sprinkled kitty food so that they finally came out.  Brooke was loving rubbing on the kitties.

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Kayla and I rode 15.7 miles and then ran 1.3 miles. Kayla is in training for an Ironman.  Someday.  Someday I’ll get there. 

Speaking of energetic accomplishers, Scott kept biking after Kayla and I turned back to run.  He put in just a few more miles and rounded it out at thirty-nine miles. Although that is light mileage since he has been biking 60 miles back and forth to work at least twice a week lately.  While we were out biking Ed pulled Super Man duty and took all four kids to a pool.  And he came back in one piece still smiling too.

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Home of the “throwed” rolls!  We love coming here when we are down in Springfield, MO.  Cody was making friends with the sorghum ladling lady so much that she suggested that we could purchase some in the gift store!  The kids were all expert hot roll catchers.  As usual we had way more food than we could ever eat, but it was so worth the over-full bellies.

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