Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Magic City

Wichita started as an old West cowtown, but its cowtown days were short-lived.  In an attempt to bring people to this new little city, the newspaper guys coined all sorts of nicknames for Wichita.  One was the "Peerless Princess of the Plains."  Another was "The Magic City."  I'm not sure Wichita is the most magical place, nor Kansas in general - ask Dorothy Gale! - but we went in search of a little magic this week.  On a beautiful sunny day, not too hot, we paid a visit to our beloved Wichita Troll!

Chained under a grate behind the electric company's building by the Arkansas River, this fantastic sculpture was away for a while, being repaired.  We hadn't visited him since he came home.

My wild prairie fairies waved their wands at him.  I think they were casting a spell to prevent future harm from coming to him.

We wandered down by the river for a spell, 

stopping to check out the dragons at Veterans' Memorial Park...

before heading to a few parks, playing and snapping pictures.

And yes, Mom played fairy dress-up, too, before all wings were cast aside.  
It's easier to fly on the swings without fairy wings.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Pet Book

Bob Staake is one of our favorite modern picture book artists, and books are some of our most beloved material possessions.  So it goes without saying that we must love Bob Staake's latest picture book, My Pet Book.

My Pet Book by Bob Staake.
Random House, 2014.

A little boy in Smartytown wanted an easy pet, not a dog or a cat.

His parents suggest a pet book.  It would be easy to care for and it would never run away!

The book was, indeed, the perfect pet.  It never ate or drank, or shed or got fleas.  "It didn't even poop!"

Best of all were the stories inside the book.

But what happens when the boy's pet book does disappear?  What happens when the maid (accidentally) donates the boy's pet book to charity?

As you can see from my first photo, My Pet Book inspired some imaginative play.  The girls chose their own pet books.  Big Sis chose her beloved Wonderful Wizard of Oz, while Little Sis is sentimental toward our old board book copy of Goodnight Moon.  And while pet books don't really eat or drink, we decided that if they did eat and drink, they might eat letters and drink ink.  Why not?

Bob Staake has a wonderful style, very retro-modern.  We try to check out each of his books as they come out.  And books that celebrate books are some of our very favorites.  We enjoy books as tangible objects, as well as the stories they contain.  My Pet Book is definitely a keeper.  I'm adding it to someone's wish list right now!

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Happy Birthday, Amelia!

Today is the 117th anniversary of Amelia Earhart's birth. 

 Amelia Earhart, famed aviator, is Little Sis's hero.  My someday artist-ballerina-pilot (-comedian-magician-science teacher-whatever hyphenate she adds that day) loves all things Amelia.  She has a doll.  She has a cheap dress-up aviator hat and scarf.  She will read or listen to any book on Amelia (or other female pilots) she can get her hands on, although she no longer wants to hear the end of the story.  She knows Amelia will disappear, never to be seen or heard from again.  She is only mildly interested in news reports related to Amelia's disappearance.  She prefers to celebrate her hero's life, rather than her demise.  She fell in love with the idea of being a pilot the first time we read this book, and I think she likes to imagine Amelia is still circling the sky in her silver Elektra.

Last year, we were able to take the girls to the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC, where Little Sis posed with Amelia's red Vega, her favorite of Amelia's planes.

This year, I couldn't wait to take her to historic Atchison, Kansas, for the annual Amelia Earhart Festival, held in honor of Atchison's most famous daughter's birthday!

This is the official button for the festival.
I told Little Sis that it was as if they knew she was coming, and
had planned accordingly.  She smiled at me and said,
"Yeah, I can be pretty horrid."

While the festival was spread over a few days, we only went up for Saturday's events.  It was a beautiful hour's drive north from Leawood, Kansas, where we were staying.  We arrived at a quarter 'til ten, parked near the quiet carnival, and wandered to the Commercial Street Mall, a lovely shopping area I would love to explore during a non-festival time.  During the festival, the area was set up as an outdoor market, with cool crafts and baked goods.  Along with the vendors, there was a duck pond (the game kind), a Mad Science booth, a couple of stages for entertainers, a petting zoo, ponies, and a human-powered spinning amusement park ride thingie that Big Sis had a lot of fun riding.  (Yeah, I don't know what else to call it.)

There was an Amelia on stilts!  We couldn't convince our little Amelia and her tiny Amelia (doll) to pose with her, but Big Sis was game.

We lingered on the mall for a couple of hours.  There was a lot to see, and there was a giant birthday card to sign and cake to eat.  The birthday cake meant missing seeing and hearing Amelia Rose Earhart at Benedictine College.  I think Little Sis would have liked to have seen her, but cake won out.

After our cake, we walked up, Up, UP steep hilly streets - not all of Kansas is flat, although Wichita is, and that's what we're used to - to the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum.

This is the beautiful old house owned by Amelia's maternal grandparents, Alfred and Amelia Otis, prominent citizens of Atchison.  Besides being born in this house, Amelia lived with her grandparents for much of her childhood, returning to her parents in Kansas City, KS, during the summer.

Inside the house, we found a lot of cool memorabilia and Victorian decor.  You can see pictures on the museum website.  When I asked Little Sis what her favorite part of the tour was, first she replied, "All of it," then changed her mind.  "The gift shop."  No wonder.  The ladies in the gift shop were very accommodating to my little Amelia fan, digging out pictures and a poster for the movie Amelia, starring Hilary Swank.

The Otises were very well-off, and their view proved it.  The house overlooks the Missouri River, and off to the side, we could see the blue Amelia Earhart Memorial Bridge (not the original) on which we drove into town.

The walk back to the commercial district was downhill and more enjoyable.  We had gorgeous Victorian houses to gawk at, and came upon a lovely sunflower.

We returned to our car, and drove to Trinity Episcopal Church, where Amelia was baptized.


There was to have been a historical 1890s-style service, but it was canceled when the former rector left, and it was too late to change the festival brochures.  We still received a tour of the gorgeous old building (some of the stained glass window are Tiffany!) and had some refreshments.  Plus, the supply priest was there to receive visitors: the former assistant rector from our church here at home!

We could see the carnival in full swing from outside the church, but by this time, all the walking uphill, my antibiotics, and the bright sun were beginning to take their toll.

"Mommy?" Little Sis asked.  "Can we come back next year with Daddy, and then we can go to carnival and see the fireworks?  I want to go back to the hotel."

We walked over to Subway and grabbed some grub to go.  Then we drove a bit around this historic railroad town on the Missouri River, then crossed the blue bridge out of town.

Back in Leawood, Little Sis changed into her new t-shirt and wrote "I ♥ Amelia Earhart" on her 8x10 photo print from the gift shop.

You can check out some of our previous Amelia and women pilot love here.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Farmstead Visit and A Book

A favorite part of our Kansas City weekend was visiting the Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead in Overland Park.  I had never heard of it until a friend posted pictures on Facebook a couple of years ago, and I knew this was a place we had to visit.  My city girls like to pretend they're country girls, egged on by stories Mr. B and my grandmother tell them about growing up on farms.

The farmstead was a wonderland for my kiddos.  Everything is meant to be turn-of-the-20th-century old-fashioned .  There were animals galore, of course, and for a small fee, kids can bottle-feed baby goats and fish with bamboo poles.  {My vegetarian, non-fishing self made the last one a bit difficult.  It just means Mr. B will need to go with us next time!}

We opted for the combo pack that included all the little pay-extra activities, including mining.  The girls were given their bags of sand to sift in the water, collecting cool stones to take home.

There was a one-room schoolhouse on the premises, too.  The girls have been inside old schoolhouses at Old Cowtown and the Little House on the Prairie Museum, but this one was especially nice.  It had a beautiful pressed tin ceiling, and a "teacher" was there to tell visitors what school was like over a century ago. Oh, and while it wasn't exactly historically accurate, the air-conditioning was nice, too.

One of my favorite parts was a Native American encampment exhibit.  It focused specifically on the Kanza tribe, and a guide was there to tell about the earthen lodge.  I didn't get a decent picture of the outside of the lodge, but you can read/see more about it here.

The rest of our combo pack included pony rides and a hay wagon ride.  The ponies were led by handlers around a little path.  I bought a ticket for the wagon ride, too.  The wagon was pulled by two gorgeous Belgian draft horses, and we could pet them when the ride was through.

There was so much to see and do, we were there for over four hours.  There were some wild birds of prey, peacocks, bobcats, bison, and longhorns in enclosures, along with a butterfly garden and nature trail.  The nature trail included some of the largest wind chimes I have ever seen.

I promised a book in the post title, right?  One of my daughters' favorite books when they were very small was a book that had belonged to my sister and me when we were kids.

Baby Farm Animals (Books for Young Explorers) by Merrill Windsor.
National Geographic Society, 1984.

This straight-forward picture book shows children on farms with different baby animals, giving facts about the animals and how they are cared for on the farm.  There's also a page about 4-H and showing animals at the fair.  Pretty simple, but the photography - this is a National Geographic publication - is what makes it such a keeper.

I'll have one more post about this weekend tomorrow!

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