Monday, September 13, 2010

A Weekend in Kansas

My goal as a mom is to provide Ben (and any future kids) with the best life possible. Pretty big feat huh? And just how will I know when or if I've accomplished this? When Ben looks back on his childhood and can remember all the places he's been, experiences he's had, and the love that surrounded it all. 

Since Ben was born, I've always been the kind of mom that wanted him to experience everything. The library, swim lessons, the park, zoo animals, all of it. Even if he would be too young to remember it-we were going to do it-that's what pictures are for. 

When Ben was the size of a grape, J and I were already planning where we would go on family vacations. When he was the size of a peach, we talked about how we couldn't wait for him to be old enough to crawl or walk, what he'd think of trying baby food for the first time, or what kind of little person he would turn out to be.

Before we even knew Ben was going to be a Ben we had hopes and dreams for our little baby. Ben won't remember all the cute little outfits he wore, how many toys he got for his birthdays, or whether or not his Power Wheel was the newest model. And if that's solely what he remembers about growing up-then we did something wrong as parents.

Don't get me wrong, Ben is spoiled. Between his two sets of grandparents he has pretty much everything his little one and a half year old heart could desire and more. I'm guessing this will continue long into his teenage years and probably into adulthood-because let's face it, J and I are grown ups and still spoiled rotten.

I want Ben to be able to say, "Wow, I got to do a lot of neat things with my family." I want him to explore, to see the world and other cultures, and to have a passion for learning. And the older he gets, the easier it becomes for us to do more and more things with him-especially things that are further away from home.

And, what is the best way to open your child's eyes to the world around him? 

This guy of course. But seriously. Ben is obsessed. 

This past weekend Ben, J, and I took our first real family vacation to Kansas City, Missouri before making our way over to Topeka, Kansas for Elmo Live. Not the grandest trip we've ever taken, but it was perfect. Although we've taken Ben many places including the zoo a few hours away from our house and on a plane to visit my sister in Atlanta, this was the first time he's stayed in a hotel overnight. After knowing how he acts sometimes in a restaurant, I was a little afraid of how he would do confined to a hotel room but he ended up doing great. Even better than great.

The trip all centered around going to see Elmo LIVE and the closest show to us happened to be in Topeka. Not wanting to drive 3 hours each way just to see the furry red creature, we decided to make a weekend of it. We left early Friday afternoon and headed to Kansas City about 2 hours from where we live and only one hour from Topeka. The great thing about leaving in the afternoon is it was also Ben's nap time and he slept almost the entire way there. When he did wake up, guess who was all cued up and ready to play in dvd player? And just to note, for those of you who are against television for young children you've obviously never been on a long car ride with a toddler. Try it.

In Kansas City we stayed at The Hyatt which was connected to Crown Center, a big shopping mall complex that also has activities and things for kids to do. It's also near Union Station which used to be an old train station that was converted and now has exhibits and activities for children and families. Although the weekend was supposed to be about Elmo, J and I definitely agreed that Crown Center and Union Station were just as fun. 
J and Ben outside Fritz's, where we ate dinner. 

The restaurant was really cool and had a train theme throughout with trains running all over the restaurant. Each table had their own phone and when you are ready to order you pick it up and someone in the kitchen takes your order. When the food is ready, a train that goes around the top of the restaurant brings your food, stops above your table, and drops it on a levy that lowers it down to you. 

Crown Center also has a small Crayola Factory Store with activities for kids and every Crayola product you could imagine. See the wheel behind Ben? It was made with all the different colors of crayons. The crayons Ben is coloring with are recycled from other broken crayons and melted into new shapes.

This little invention also kept him occupied for hours. If we knew he would have loved it this much we would have just gone to our local JCPenny:)

Saturday morning eating breakfast in bed. Ben slept so well, even better than mommy and daddy. The hotel was fabulous and had a pack n play already in our room when we arrived. He feel asleep in our bed and after we moved him to the pack n play we didn't hear a peep until morning.

Since Elmo wasn't until later that afternoon, we headed over to Union Station to see everything it had to offer. Every few months they have a rotating exhibit and this time it just happened to be Dinosaurs Unearthed.
I love how he's looking at J to make sure everything's ok and that dinosaur isn't going to eat him.

Sometimes dinosaur stuff like has a tendency to be cheesy, but this one was amazing. Kids seemed to love it, parent's loved it. It was a win-win. The dinosaurs moved and made sounds and they also had some replicas of actual dinosaur fossils. I didn't catch a picture, but just the hip bone of one of the dinosaurs was HUGE. 
Ben kept saying "dinosaurs, dinosaurs," and roaring like one. 

Besides Dinosaurs Unearthed, Union Station also has a thing called Science City. It's kind of like a science center, but made to look like a city. It had a train station, hotel, playground, police station, etc. and each place had cool activities inside of it.
In the Nasa Spaceship.

In the "mine" getting ready to go down the dark slide. The sign said that friction and static electricity inside the slide should create sparks that you can see.

I think daddy was weighing the team down because not only were there no sparks, but J had to basically scoot down the slide. Ben was not amused.

In the lobby at Union Station. Ben normally doesn't carry his lovey with him when we go places, but for some reason he wanted to carry it with him everywhere this trip. I thought it was pretty cute and he looks so small in the big atrium. 

And last but not least...we finally made it to Elmo!
Waiting in anticipation...

We had amazing seats on the floor, fourth row back. We figured if we were going to travel 3 hours to see him, we wanted to be able to really see him.

At intermission, two men each carrying at least fifty Elmo balloons casually made their way to the front of the stage and of course, the moment Ben spotted all the balloons he had to have one. As did the 500 other children. And, at $10 a balloon, Elmo made himself a nice little pile of cash. A balloon shaped like Elmo is the greatest joy to a 19 month old.
The finale. I may or may not have teared up when Elmo said, "Goodbye, Elmo loves you."

As we made the drive home, we reminisced about all the fun we had this weekend. I'm already looking forward to our next adventure and praying that one of Ben's little friends doesn't inform him that in a month, one singing, dancing, purple dinosaur will be also be at the Topeka Expocentre. Because of all the places we'll go, that is not one of them. 
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