Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Oh...the Excitement

Since this past weekend we've had way more excitement around here than what I am normally prepared for. 

It all began on Saturday, bright and early, with Allie not being able to sleep due to the drop-off birthday party she was due to attend at noon.  Not too surprisingly, she was awake and ready to go by 8:00 am.  Since I was getting absolutely nowhere with her as I tried desperately to explain that we still had 4 hours to kill until the party began, I decided my efforts would be better spent on a morning run. 

Realizing that the temps were a little cooler than my last outside run, I wore pants, but opted for a short sleeved T.  About a mile into my run, when I could no longer feel my fingers and my arms resembled the wings of a freshly plucked chicken, I came to the conclusion that if I can see my breath outside, I need to wear sleeves.  Despite the chill, I finished 3.5 miles in 34:59 and was pretty happy with that.

Later on Saturday while Allie partied it up, the rest of us went to Penzey's spices to restock my spice cabinet which was glaringly barren after I realized some spices had been taking up residency there for the past eight years.  At Penzey's, Ben mentioned something to me about Olivia feeling hot, but I chalked it up to the fact that her two front teeth were FINALLY making their appearance. 

After Penzey's and a visit to Choo-Choo Bob's train shop, we indulged in some Izzy's ice cream and picked up a few cupcakes to take home for a treat after dinner before we returned to claim our oldest child at the drop-off birthday party. 
The drop-off birthday party was indeed a huge hit and also provided the impetus for Allie to begin planning her own birthday party that is only a scant two months away. 

Upon our return home, Ben still insisted Olivia felt feverish, and the thermometer declared 102.4.  Lovely. 

Sunday brought church for Ben and the big kids while I stayed home with a sick Olivia who slept away most of the morning.  That afternoon, while the boys watched football, Allie and I ran a few errands:  grocery store, Target, and Toys'R Us....because, apparently life could not go on for Allie until she procured a Flynn Rider doll (which I mistakenly referred to as Flynn McRider when asking the sales associate if they had any additional dolls in the back when we were faced with a completely empty shelf). 

Long story short, Allie was supposed to earn the moola to pay for the doll, but we have yet to set anything formal into place as far as earning money for chores.  After two days of incessant asking for jobs to do (seriously, by incessant I mean at least 15 times every hour) performing the tasks (until there were no more tasks to be performed), and saving the money (in my defense, she already had $10 in her wallet), we were bad parents and just gave her the five extra bucks she needed for the doll.  So, she obviously didn't learn any big lesson about finances or saving, but now she has a Flynn Rider doll that poses with Rapunzel all around our house...looking like this:

Ok, so maybe Ben and I are the only ones with the minds of a pre-teen boy, but we couldn't stop laughing at Flynn's not-so-subtle hand placement. 
It was also about this same time on Sunday, in between fits of laughter, that we noticed Zach, although fever-free, had obviously contracted the black lung and has since kept us up each night with his incessant need to cough...and cough...and cough...and cough......

And, no, he does not wake up at the same time as fever-stricken Olivia who was diagnosed with Allie's mystery illness from two weeks ago at the after hours clinic last night by the same doctor who still proclaimed shock over Allie's mystery ailment. 

In between all of our weekend excitement, we also had preparations to make because both Allie and Zach are their classroom leaders this week.  Both kids had to make a poster about themselves.  Here's Allie's:

And, here's Zach's:

Obviously, we are still working on printing/coloring/any type of willingness to write or practice fine motor skills with Zach. 

Oh...in addition to the posters, we've also been diligent in clocking our 30 minutes of required reading per day.

Wow...obviously I failed to remind Allie to brush her hair on that particular day. 

So, that about sums up our exciting past few days.  I'm sure I'll hear lots more about Zach's special day today upon picking him up from preschool (he was SUPER excited about the snack he picked out to share:  vanilla yogurt raisins, Scooby-Doo graham snacks, and apple juice).  He was also supposed to share all of the items he (or, should I say Allie) gathered to put in the "letter bag" that begin with the letter "A" (their letter of the week).  I also can't wait to ask Allie about the little girl I saw her talking to and laughing with as she walked into school (Yay!  She's making friends!) and hear where she got to "lead" her class as line leader today.  But, now, Miss Olivia is awake from her nap, so I must see where we are with this nasty fever......

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

We Survived Last Week

After a truly crazy last week, I can finally say things are getting back to normal around here....the new normal, that is.  I think the kids would prefer to have a few of those lazy summer days back again, complete with hours spent running around outside and thrashing around in the swimming pool, but school and preschool are now in full swing, making for busy and oftentimes hectic mornings as I try to corral all three kids and myself out the door by 8:30 am.

It seems that Allie does not get sick often, but when she does, she gets REALLY sick.  I spent most of last week trying to determine what was best to do for Allie as her temps soared into the upper 104's (her highest was 105.1--yikes!)  and her tonsils continued to become more inflamed and coated with white nasty gunk.  Most likely conclusion:  Strep.  Unfortunately, the rapid strep test came back negative and we were sent home from the doctor's office on Monday with the assumption that it was some unknown virus. 

The next day her condition worsened so I went back to the doctor's office where her white blood cell count was determined to be elevated.  So, we began round 1 of antibiotics for strep throat with the assumption that both the rapid strep and overnight culture resulted in a false negative. 

Thursday, with no improvement on the antibiotics, we were back at the doctor's office for more tests that resulted in no real answers.  We began another antibiotic because of how terrible her throat looked (and obviously felt) and how high her fever was. 

By Friday evening, with no real improvement on the second antibiotic, I was pretty certain we'd be spending Saturday at the Children's Hospital ER.  However, when Allie woke up on Saturday morning, almost fever-free, we decided to wait the day out.  By Saturday evening, she was a million times better, with little-to-no throat pain and absolutely NO fever.  We are still not certain what made the change...whether it was the antibiotic or the mystery illness finally running its course.  Either way, we are just thankful to have our normal, bubbly, energetic, talkative Allie back.  And, thankfully, no one else has any inkling of illness!  Hopefully, I didn't just jinx that....

Needless to say, Allie is more than happy to be back at school this week.  She was devastated to miss 5 whole days and couldn't wait to get back to class. 

Last week was Zach's first week of preschool and I think he was pretty bummed he only goes 2 days a week.  Granted, it was kind of boring for him around here with all the sickness drama so he was really excited to go back to his class today.  I've had a hard time getting him to open up about his day at school, what he is doing, who he is meeting, books his class is reading, etc.  But, I've discovered if I ask him what they ate for a snack, all of a sudden he is more than willing to tell me every single thing about his day!  Today, for instance, he ate pretzel sticks, cinnamon crackers, and apple juice that was "really, really, yummy!"  Then, he went on to tell me about this really cool race car book he read and how he doesn't like that the teachers play music when it is pick-up time because all the other kids dance around and don't pick anything up, but he picks things up because he really doesn't like dancing anyway and he wants to be a good helper for the teachers.  I also heard about the balls in the gym and how they painted and he got paint all over his hands and had to wash it off before snack time.   

Olivia has still been working desperately to crawl...all while trying to cut three teeth.  Her days have been a little bit more fussy than normal, especially since she has been forced to miss many of her morning naps while I cart Allie and Zach around.  She has discovered the joy of Allie and Zach's Little People toys.  She especially loves the farm and all the animals....she plays with it all day long.  She has been sportin' all her 18 month fall clothes, but unfortunately the leggings we bought for her are a tad bit too snug.  Not only do they leave elastic marks on those chunk-o-licious thighs, but they give her a horrible case of plumber's butt! 

Not too much new on my side of things.  I was finally able to score the last copy of Jillian's "Ripped in 30" DVD at Target this past Sunday.  Although I was disappointed with the first level (or maybe my expectations were too high?  I was anticipating being on my death bed after the 30 minute regimen, but instead hopped on the treadmill for 15 more minutes), I am feelin' a tad bit sore after I tackled the second level this morning.  Still not horrendous or anything, but definitely more challenging than level 1.  My butt and shoulders are definitely not happy with me right now. 

Anyway, I think I should end this post before I ramble on any more than I already have.  Plus, I believe I hear the kiddoes stirring from their naps.  Happy Tuesday, all!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Zach's First Day of Preschool

Today was a BIG DAY for Zach.
He picked out his Popeye shirt, camo shorts, black socks and light-up shoes to wear.
And, he couldn't wait to put on his new Cars 2 backpack.

After his breakfast of instant oatmeal, applesauce, and milk, we headed out the front door for the obligatory first day of school photos.

Unfortunately, I've been known to take one too many photos...and after a fair amount of snapping, I got the "I've had enough of this, Mom" face...better known around here as the classic-Zach-grump-face.
So, I shifted gears and asked him to show me how excited he was for preschool and this is what I got:

I'd say that's most definitely excitement.

Because of his uncontainable excitement we left a little earlier than necessary.  Ben was able to stay at home this morning with a sick and devastated Allie (sorry, unfortunately a temperature of 103.7 does not qualify as feeling better, babe) and a tired Olivia who was ready for her morning nap.

Zach and I took advantage of the extra time and stopped at the gas station to pick up some eggs, bananas, and...
Needless to say, he was thrilled by his First Day of Preschool Celebratory Donut...complete with chocolate milk.
On the way from the gas station to preschool, Zach wanted to make sure again that this was his very own preschool and not Allie's.  I assured him that indeed it was Zach's preschool.  He was pleased to hear it and I am happy that he will finally have something to claim all his own.  I definitely think he's ready. 

When we got to preschool, Zach hung up his backpack and actually requested a picture by his Green Class door.
The first thing the kids must do upon entering the classroom is find their names to put up on the attendance board.  I thought for sure Zach would need help locating his name, but before I could even offer my help, he had successfully found the little red apple with the Z-A-C-H written on it.
Oh, how I often underestimate you, buddy.  I know you are a lot smarter than you'd like us to think.  You always surprise me by how much that little brain of yours absorbs. 
Zach couldn't wait to play with the Lego table...he had been talking about it ever since he first laid eyes upon it last week.
After the quickest hug and kiss ever, I was out the door while Zach was racing over to the play-doh table.

From what information I was able to extract from him after picking him up from his class, it seems like he had a great first day.  He wasn't too forthcoming, but I did find out that they played outside (and they had a TRACTOR YOU COULD RIDE ON!), worked on some cutting with scissors, had a snack of bananas and chocolate whipped cream (hmmm...not sure about that one, but he seemed excited about it), and he helped the teacher by telling the other kids they needed to clean up when it was time to clean up.  He was also quite disturbed that some of the kids thought the weather was supposed to be rainy tomorrow because he knows it is going to be sunny.  He was also bummed that he didn't get a chance to look at the monster truck book or play in the kitchen, but when I reminded him he gets to go back on Thursday, he said emphatically that he would make sure to play with those things right away on Thursday.

We're so proud of you Zach...of how you are growing and learning each day.  I just know you are going to have a blast in preschool this year!

Sick Day

Well, yesterday marked another first for our school year:  Allie had her first sick day.  Upon hearing that her temperature was 102 degrees and that she would have to stay home from school, she cried...big crocodile tears...which turned into sobs when she also realized she would be missing her very first day of dance as well. 

I gave her a hug, some much needed Tylenol, a blanket to ward off those chills, and a prime seat in front of the TV for some Disney Junior.  After 10 minutes, she claimed she was miraculously cured and was begging to go to school.  Unfortunately, her flushed cheeks and glassy eyes gave her away. 

Thankfully, the strep test came back negative, so it looks like we just have a nasty virus on our hands.  A virus that better run its course quickly, if Allie has anything to say about it. 

As a kid, I remember many days feeling devastated about being sick and missing school too.  I'm absolutely sure I cried over a missed school day more than a few times.  Heck, I know that there were many times I went to school sick when I probably should have stayed home.  I had to be on death's door to actually want to stay home from school or voluntarily miss any event...and even then, I wasn't too happy about it.  In fact, I played principal for our very last high school orchestra concert exactly three days after getting my wisdom teeth removed and I vividly remember the taste of blood in my mouth by the end of the performance. 

Anyway, we passed the time yesterday reading books and watching TV and waiting more than forever at the doctor's office.  I know Allie is hoping to be fully recovered by this morning...because it is gym day at school today and she cannot miss gym day!

I'm just hoping, by some miracle, that Allie can keep her nasty bug to herself.  Only 4 days into school and already new germs are infiltrating our house?!  I fear it is going to be a long school year....

Now, it is off to get Zach ready for his big first day of preschool! 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Weight Loss Update

Anyone else besides myself wonder what happened to my regular weight loss posts? 

Believe me, it is not like I don't have anything to say regarding the topic of weight loss...it's just that most of it is quite negative because it seems no matter what I try, I absolutely cannot shake these last five pounds! 

I know, I know.  In the whole grand scheme of things, what's 5 pounds?  Right?  I mean, I have actually lost a significant amount of weight since October 30, 2010 (44 pounds, to be exact), so I should be happy with that, right? 

Well, it turns out, I'm not.  And, unfortunately, even though I realize I am being completely ridiculous, I'm having an extremely difficult time changing the way I feel about it. 

You see, back when I was a mom of two, before Olivia was even in the picture, I found myself  far over weight and extremely unhealthy.  I made a commitment to myself that I was finally going to do something about it and I had my mind set on a certain number.  A little over 9 months and 62 pounds later, I reached that goal...and it felt amazing.  I should mention that I had the help of Weight Watchers, but the discipline to exercise daily and control my food intake was a lot of my own hard work. 

Yes, I know I am still nursing and there are a lot of hormones that come into play that can adequately explain my body's refusal to let go of these last 5 pounds, but none of the logical reasons make me feel any better.  I've made significant lifestyle changes regarding my eating and exercise habits over the past three years and it seems so irritating that I can't seem to get back to my pre-preggo weight.  In fact, I truly believe I must be the only person in the whole world that can run twenty miles a week while meticulously watching what I eat and still not lose weight. 

Alright, now that I have whined sufficiently for us all, let's take a look at the positives.  Because, regardless of whether or not I'm pleased by the numbers on the scale, I know without a doubt that I am a much healthier and happier person than I was three years ago. 

For instance, three years ago, I performed most of my work out DVDs with 3 lb weights.  Today, it doesn't really even seem like a work out unless I have my 5 lb weights.  Then, an outside run of 1.5 miles was about all I could muster.  This past Saturday, I went for a 40 minute run, and to my surprise, as I was rounding the block to our house, I looked down at my Garmin and realized I had run 4.1 miles.  A half hour bike ride three years ago left my legs tired and achey.  This past summer, Allie and I went on several 15-20 mile rides and enjoyed every second of it. 

So, even though I'm not at my goal weight, my endurance level is way beyond what it was three years ago.  And, strangely enough, I actually look forward to exercise, especially running.  Although I have had my fair share of tight muscles, achey joints, and shin pain this past year, I love how a good run can be such a stress reliever for me...how it can help clear my head and mind...how frustration with the mundane tasks of life seems greatly reduced after a good pounding of the pavement...how my patience and tolerance levels for life's little irritations increase. 

However, in order to cut back on some of the physical strain caused by my daily runs, and in an effort to increase my core strength, I added back in some of my beloved (ha...hahahahahaha!) Jillian Michael's DVDs.  I alternate every day between pounding out 3 or so miles outside or on the treadmill and a strength training video.  I have 4 DVDs that I rotate around to help me from getting too bored.  I was also going to add in Ms. Michael's "Ripped in 30," but Target has been out of stock for the past month.  Anyone tried it?  What did you think?  Any other DVD ideas for core-strength training? 

So, to sum things up in the weight loss arena: 
5 lbs to go...
extremely irritated...
but I actually enjoy a good work out...well, that and Edy's Slow Churned Cookies and Cream Ice Cream.   

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Yes...We Survived

Well, we survived the first week back to school and miraculously, everyone is still smiling....
The new schedule is still going to take a little while to get used to.  Although Allie seems to love school, she isn't too crazy about having to get up and going right away every single morning.  In fact, my early riser was actually excited to sleep in on Saturday and stay in her pj's most of the morning.  The highlight of her school week was Friday when their class visited the library and she got to borrow a book to take home ("FOR FREE, MOM!!  IT DIDN'T EVEN COST ANY MONEY!").  Friday was also her very first art class day and she was completely enamored by the art room.

While Allie has been away at school each morning and Olivia is napping, Zach and I have been working on some pre-writing skills. 
Although Zach would rather be running around outside or playing with his cars, I have been able to keep his attention for 15-20 minutes to work on holding his pencil to complete simple mazes and trace a few letters.  He gets frustrated pretty easily when his letters don't look as good as Allie's, so it is definitely easier to work with him when Allie is away.  I haven't been pushing him too hard yet and am hoping his time at preschool (beginning this week!) will help him become more excited about writing. 

Speaking of preschool, Zach had his preschool orientation last week.  After seeing his classroom and meeting his teachers, he is incredibly excited to begin on Tuesday!  His favorite thing about his room?  The 2 pet lizards.  What a boy!

I'm having a difficult time determining if Olivia's fussiness this past week is due to the three teeth that are just about to break through her gums or the change in schedule.  Either way, she has done extremely well considering how much running we have to do between normal errands and taking Allie to and from school.  Her greatest achievement this week? 
No, not crawling...rolling is still her preferred mode of transportation.  But, she did start blowing kisses!  She even makes the "mwah!" sound as she does it.  Also, she is trying her hardest to pull up on anything she can get her hands on. 
In other news, my finger seems to be healing nicely...there was a minor set-back after Zach stomped on it this evening, but the stitches are still set to come out on Tuesday.

And, that's all I have for tonight...actually, I'm pretty sure there is more, but once the clock turns to 9:00 pm, my brain turns to mush, and I really can't be held responsible for anything written after that.  So, instead, here's a cute picture of the kids: 
Now, to bed I go...because the alarm goes off at 5:00 am so I can hit the treadmill before the rest of the troops rise...just one more back-to-school schedule change to get used to.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day of Kindergarten

Today was my Allie-Babe's first day of kindergarten.
I told myself I wasn't going to get all sentimental over it, but yesterday after I almost chopped my left index finger off with an electric hedge trimmer, I had some time to reflect while waiting in the ER.  In between sobbing hysterically and contemplating how I would live life without my finger (it should come as no surprise to any of you that Allie obviously inherited her dramatic flair from yours truly), it hit me that my first baby was actually going to school the following day and I would be taking her...whether I had 9 fingers or 10. 
When I was still crying after the doctor had thoroughly numbed my finger (awww....sweet relief) and began sewing it back together, she asked what all the tears were for.  So, I told her all about my Allie, how she was going to school in the morning, how her stupid mom pretty much ruined the whole sacred-night-before-your-first-day-of-school-pick-out-your-outfit ritual by almost chopping her finger off while trimming a bush in the backyard, and how all three kids and my husband had been waiting for over an hour and a half in the ER lobby instead of enjoying our last summer barbecue together on the night before Allie's big day.  The doctor chuckled and began telling me all about her kids, their first days of kindergarten, and how she was just one big mess too.  In that moment, I was just so thankful that she didn't think I was completely out of my mind.
After five stitches and assurance from the doctor that I would be as good as new in a week's time, I went out to meet Ben and the kids.  And, right there next to Ben was my Allie, hanging on my every word, making sure that I was alright.  She was the one who walked into the ER with me, holding my wallet and insurance card as I held my blood-soaked, paper towel wrapped hand while Ben parked the car with the two other kids.  And, she was the one with tears in her own eyes, telling me everything was going to be ok, when she realized just how yucky the whole situation was.
I'm not quite sure when my first baby grew up, but she did. 
And today she could not contain her excitement as she began her first day of kindergarten...in fact, she was so excited that she was up and ready to go before 6am.
Although I'm sad at how fast almost 6 years have gone by, I couldn't be more proud of the little girl who walked fearlessly through those classroom doors this morning determined to take on the world.
Where other kids were teary-eyed and nervous, Allie could not wait for it all to begin. 

As she hung her princess back pack up, I couldn't help but smile.

Kindergarten is a whole new world, both for you and me, Allie-Babe. 
I'm so thankful for your excitement upon beginning this new adventure and know that God has some amazing things planned for you.
However, you and I are both going to need to work on our patience, though.  Apparently you were extremely bummed out to discover that you would not get to participate in every single activity during the first three-hour day of morning kindergarten.  Your tears of dissapointment over not being able to play outside on the playground (because that was the one thing you were looking forward to the most about going to kindergarten) quickly disappeared after a lunch filled with a play-by-play report of everything that happened on your first day...followed by a chocolate chip cookie. 
I, on the other hand, am still in tears over the state of my nasty finger, which unfortunately does not look or feel much better than it did a mere 24 hours ago.  Maybe I just need a chocolate chip cookie too.

Happy 10 Months, Olivia!

Wow!  Olivia, you have reached double-digit ages (well, as far as months are concerned) and I can hardly believe it.  You are very much still the cuddly baby of the family, but just look how much you have grown in the past ten months! 
Everyone always asks us whether we think you look more like Allie or Zach, but we are discovering more and more that you are your own unique person.  You definitely resemble your brother and sister and there is no doubt about the fact that you belong in our family, but with each passing day, your look and your personality is becoming all your own. 

In fact, you are finally starting to come out of your easy-going shell and aren't afraid to let us know exactly what you want...especially if you feel something has been unjustly taken from you (like the piece of paper you were about to consume in the photo below). 
Although you do have your less-than-ideal moments, for the most part, you are the happiest little gal I know. 
You LOVE to play and make silly noises with your mouth.
In fact, you love it even more if we imitate your silliness.

And, you are never afraid to give yourself a good round of applause when you know you are being stinkin' cute.

You just started waving the other day and it melts my heart every time.  I will always remember the first time you waved goodbye to me.  I was telling your Daddy something on my way out of the house and right before leaving, I looked over to you and said, "bye-bye!"  You looked straight back at me, smiled, then lifted up your chubby left hand and began waving.  The reason it was so amazing to me is because it was the first time I knew that you knew exactly what I was saying to you!  I didn't even wave, yet you knew I was leaving and the right thing to do was wave goodbye.  I'm afraid I'm confusing you now, though, because I love seeing you wave so much that I am constantly saying "bye-bye" to you to see if you will wave! 

As I think over this past month, I realize you are definitely communicating more to us through your voice and hand motions.  For instance, when Daddy comes home from work each evening, you immediately lift your hands in the air because you want him to pick you up.  When you are eating in your high chair and want more food, we can almost always count on you to utter the "mmmm" sound until you get exactly what you want.  You give kisses and nuzzle into our necks for hugs and you still make a fuss whenever I leave the room because you want to be near me. 
You may not be crawling, but you are so close!  And, when you can't seem to figure out how to make yourself move on all fours, you just resort to rolling...which gets you anywhere you want to go. 

You LOVE to practice standing and just today, I noticed you were trying your hardest to pull up to the coffee table.  Is it possible you'll just skip crawling and go right to walking?  Hmmm....not sure if I'm ready for that! 

I'm not sure how big you are, but your 18 month clothes fit you perfectly.  My guess is somewhere between 22-23 pounds.  Obviously, you love to eat.  Although you are officially done with baby food (you are definitely the little independent eater), we still have to dice up our food in pretty tiny pieces because your two little teeth just can't chew as much as you'd like them to.  We've noticed that you typically feed yourself with your left hand (you also grab toys with your left hand) and are wondering if you'll be a lefty like your dad.  Only time will tell!

Just when you have an awesome sleep pattern down (8pm-6:30am...9am-10:30am....2pm-4pm), it looks like the kids' back to school schedule is going to change you all up.  We've noticed the more sleep you get during the day, the longer you will sleep at night.  So, skipped naps usually equal that lovely 4:30-5am wake up time.  I'm hoping once we settle into our back-to-school routine, we can also settle into those good sleep habits again.
Olivia, you are growing healthy, laughing often, and are a joy to have as a part of our family!  We love you...Happy 10 Months, Bug-a-boo!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

MN State Fair

Last Monday we decided to hit up the MN State Fair.  We picked the PERFECT day for the Fair:  Sunny, but not to hot, with beautiful blue skies and a nice breeze. 

The first thing we did upon arriving at the fairgrounds (bright and early at 9 am) was purchase some delish Sweet Martha's chocolate chip cookies.  After the cookies were devoured (in no less than 5 minutes), we took our ride down the big slide and headed right for the mini donuts.  I have been talking up the mini donuts for WEEKS because that, along with a foot long corn dog, is my absolute favorite Fair food.  Unfortunately, Zach was not at all impressed by the size or temperature of the mini donuts.  He was expecting something much bigger, covered with chocolate and filled with creme, and definitely not piping hot.  We were all laughing hysterically when he declared his disappointment and refused to eat any of them.  Oh well...more for me!

After the mini donut debacle, we made our way over to the kiddie rides, collecting all kinds of free junk along the way...the most treasured of items being a Disney Tangled poster and chicken hats.
The rides, as always, were a huge hit with the kids.  Allie loves all the rides, but Zach is a little more hesitant in choosing what he will and will not go on. 

He definitely wouldn't brave it on the big drop.
 Allie, on the other hand, wanted to go again.
In fact, we had to stop this particular ride after one rotation around because Zach was screaming that it was going to fast and that he was going to fall off.

Thankfully, the rides ended on a happy note as both kids enjoyed the kiddie bumper boats.

After a visit to the kids' farm, looking at tractors, and collecting a lot more free junk at various booths, we decided it was high time for some lunch.  It was Pronto Pups all around for everyone....everyone, that is, except for Olivia who was completely conked out in her stroller.  Don't worry, she had lunch a little later after waking from her 2 hour nap (awesome!). 

Then, it was off to see the animals.  Sadly, the poultry barn was closed for cleaning, but we still got to see tons of pigs, cows, horses, sheep, and goats. 

After all that walking, it was definitely time for another snack (yep...there is a lot of eatin' to do at the MN State Fair).  We decided to hit up the dairy building to check out the princess butter sculptures (yep...they carve people out of butter here in the grand ole' state of MN) and get some ice cream. 

We even let Olivia have her first ice cream cone....
 LOVED it. 
In fact, when we finally had to take it away (because it was basically just a pile of mush left), she cried harder than I think she's ever cried before.  She was devastated. 
But, I get it.  I would be devastated too if someone yanked my ice cream cone out of my hands before I was done with it!

After the ice cream cones, we made sure to get a good spot for the afternoon parade.  The kids LOVE to watch the parade and this year was no exception. 

The parade usually marks the end to our fair day, but we made one last stop to get this year's annual personalized family Christmas ornament before hopping on the bus to head home. 

The MN Fair always seems to mark the end of summer festivities for us.  What a fun ending to another fabulous summer!