Mark Twain’s Hannibal, Missouri

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We road-tripped to Hannibal, Missouri which is 100 miles northwest of St. Louis over Memorial Day weekend. Our goal was to visit the Mark Twain boyhood home and museum and spend the day exploring the town and maybe squeeze in a cave tour. We were lucky and able to experience all three things!

We took a scenic route up there that took us along Highway 79 and through historic Clarksville, Missouri. This town is also one of the largest migrating areas for the Bald Eagle. This charming town is filled with lots of antique shops and provides an up-close view of the Mississippi River.

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The river town of Hannibal, Missouri was the inspiration for Mark Twain’s novels- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Adventures of Tom Sawyer. We were able to secure a nice discount to Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home and Interpretive Center on Groupon so be sure to check that out before heading over. The tour gives you access to all the main places- Mark Twain’s boyhood home, Becky Thatcher’s house, Huckleberry Finn’s house, and the Museum Gallery which features 15 original Norman Rockwell paintings. We spent considerable time viewing all the buildings and experiencing all the interactive features.

Continue reading “Mark Twain’s Hannibal, Missouri”


World Bird Sanctuary

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The World Bird Sanctuary sits on 305 acres of Missouri hardwood forest out in Valley Park, Missouri. Their mission is to “preserve the earth’s biological diversity and secure the future of threatened bird species in their natural environments.” The organization does this through education, field studies around the world and rehabilitation of injured animals.

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We journeyed out to spend a day at the World Bird Sanctuary in early June. Upon arriving, we visited the Monsanto Fund Environmental Education Center where we met several animals who had been rehabilitated. “Frazzle”- an Eastern Screech Owl really touched our hearts. These owls can be found in orchards or woodlots and are usually a gray or rust color. Frazzle came to the Sanctuary as a young bird with a severe eye infection. Despite treatment, the staff was not able to save her eye and it had to be removed. My kids were so touched by Frazzle- we lingered around her cage for some time and discussed ways we might be able to help other birds like Frazzle. You can see her closed left eye in the picture below.

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After leaving the Education Center, we ventured outside where there were several different types of owls, eagles and hawks for viewing. Below you see a European Barn Owl. These owls are found across Europe with the exception of Scandinavia and tend to be smaller and lighter-colored than their American relatives. Did you know that one Barn Owl can eat up to 2,000 mice a year? 

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We followed a paved footpath where we passed a hospital that helps rehabilitate many patients like Frazzle. We ended up walking through to their outdoor exhibits where they had many animals- All types of owls, Red-Tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, White Pelicans, Sand Hill Cranes and Turkey Vultures, just to name a few. There were also several off the beaten path trails that took you through their backwoods. It was really breathtaking.

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We ended our journey with a visit to the Nature Center. There we saw birds, parrots, bats, an armadillo and our favorite- “Anna” the Green Tree Python! Wouldn’t want to meet her in the forest but behind the glass- she looked pretty cute. If you live in the St. Louis area- this is a great place to visit and take your kids- They have a BatFest in Early Spring, National Trails Day in June, and an Owl Prowl in November. Many of the programs are free or low-cost. And the work they are doing is incredible. Truly.

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St. Louis’ Graffiti Wall

April-June 2016 278It’s been cra-zy around the house. Crazy with a capital “C.” Too much to go into today and will share more in a few weeks but suffice to say that with everything going on and the kids home and us traveling on the weekends all over Missouri, Indiana and Chicago, I have had very little time to write and update the blog. I have so much to share however and will in due time. Before leaving for another trip to Los Angeles to celebrate my last living grandparent- Abuelita Chelo- who turns 90- wanted to share some pictures from a trip we took to St. Louis’ Graffiti Wall.

April-June 2016 277You don’t hear much about this Graffiti Wall, at least I had not and I was so pleasantly surprised by how interesting it was. Every August/September, the wall is painted white and the city throws a huge paint party down by the riverfront, as that is where it is and graffiti artists paint huge murals with lots of powerful imagery.

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Some tips if you go: The wall is down by the riverfront off of Chouteau and S Leonor K Sullivan Blvd. When you get off the freeway and follow your navigation, you might feel like you might be in a bad part of town but do not fear- it’s just industrial- not bad at all. Feel free to park anywhere close by the wall there are no parking spaces that are close by and I made the mistake of parking in the semi-parking lot on the left and then had to go back to get my car in the hot, humid weather.  Go to the right and just park anywhere. If you go during the summer- go early as it gets really hot, very quickly. Enjoy and take lots of pictures!


Weekend Road Trip to South Bend, Indiana

March 2016-April 2016 215A few weekends ago, we road-tripped to South Bend, Indiana for the Rip the Duck Lacrosse Tournament that Second Most Honorable Son participated in. It was a fun, memorable family adventure. It was cold as all out but somehow that just brought us closer together. Nothing like huddling under a blanket with heat warmers in the snow to bring a family closer.

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3 p.m. Leaving much later than we wanted (this is a theme for us- always), we finally hit the road. It is a beautiful drive from St. Louis, through Chicago and Indianapolis. During the 6 hour drive we hit every weather possible- high winds, fog, snow flurries, rain and sunshine. This midwest weather is CRAZY!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

8 a.m. First lacrosse game isn’t until early afternoon so we decide to make the most of our morning by driving around South Bend and walking around University of Notre Dame.

10 a.m. We visit the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. The first mass here was celebrated in 1875. The church has been lovingly restored and preserved. It has a sanctuary, seven chapels and forty-four large stained glass windows produced in the 1870’s and 1880’s at the Carmelite Sisters’ glass works in Le Mans, France. A “minor basilica” is a special designation given by the Pope to certain churches because of their antiquity and historical importance. Pope John Paul II designated the church a minor basilica in 1992.

1 p.m. Team Jackson gears up for three back-to-back lacrosse games in the course of 5 hours, in 2o-degree weather. I came prepared with blankets, heat warmers, four layers of clothing for everyone but still, it was not enough. Second Most Honorable Son was such a trooper. He was pretty much numb throughout the duration of the games, with snot dripping from his nose and teeth chattering but he didn’t complain too much. This was a huge character building moment for this kid who loves to complain.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

8 a.m. Final lacrosse game in freezing rain with umbrellas and blankets wrapped around us. After a quick and yummy pancake topped breakfast at the Original Pancake House, we head to the bookstore on Notre Dame’s campus to buy swag in the form of sweatshirts, books and t-shirts.

4 p.m. We are on the road again, back to St. Louis.

If you find yourself in this neck of the woods, here are some kid-friendly activities in South-Bend, Indiana to explore:

The History Museum– Fun, hands-on activities take you back to the pioneer days.

Hannah Lindahl Children’s Museum– Run through a collection of unique artifacts and exhibits that explore the Mishawaka area’s natural history, pioneer villages, and homes.

Potawatomi Zoo and Park– This zoo is on 23 acres and was Indiana’s first zoo. There’s a train, farm, playground and splash pad.

South Bend Chocolate Company Factory and Museum–  Get a tour of the factory and museum. Sample some chocolates and take some home for souvenir gifts.


Morpho Butterflies and Wendy’s Frostys

Random ramblings reflect my scattered state of mind. I’ve got a plumber in the house doing work, interrupting my routine and schedule. There’s a deep layer of fog covering the sky this morning and every kid was late to school because of daylight savings time. Gotta love it.

In an effort to combat the fatigue of too much screen time, we’ve got a house rule that the kids only get screen time – time on iPads, phones, computer and video games – from Friday through Sunday. We limit it to one hour per kid each of those days. This strategy has backfired on us I think because what happens then is that Friday afternoons end up being indoors, in front of screens like maniacs. Then the weekends we are constantly managing this whole who gets what screen when. It is extremely frustrating and if anyone out there has come up with better ways of managing this, please share! But we haven’t come up with a better solution so we continue on.

This past Friday was an early school release day which meant we had hours of potential screen time in front of us. And it was nice out- like the sun is out and it’s above 60 degrees kind of nice. I dislike the idea of squandering good weather. So I put my big Momma foot down.

We are visiting the Butterfly House this afternoon I announced to the kids. Reactions? Baby girl squealed with joy. 2nd most honorable son whined that he just wanted to stay home and relax which in his book means playing video games. Big boy threw a major tantrum that culminated in the car with a you can force me to go but you can’t make me like it teenage back talk. It was painful. I thought maybe I should just turn the car around and forget this whole thing. It  would have been easier and that’s saying something. But I wanted us to spend quality time together and if it didn’t come naturally I was going to force it.

The month of March is March Morpho Mania at the Butterfly House. The common blue morpho is native to Central and South America. Every March, the Butterfly House has thousands of morphos shipped to them from Costa Rica every day. An interesting fact about these beauties is that their wings are not actually blue although they appear to be blue. Their wings are lined with tiny scales that only allow blue light to escape. So, when you see the beautiful blue mess of butterflies, it’s just the sun hitting them in a certain way. When we entered the tropical conservatory we were instantly surrounded and in the company of 2,000 morpho butterflies. Here’s a picture of the 3 kids upon entering the greenhouse. You can see how unhappy the boys are.

All you parents out there with littles still- enjoy and embrace it. There we were, experiencing this stupendous nature and beauty and I have to be honest and share that I just felt sadness. I felt that the days of me dragging my kids out all together especially big boy who is on the precipice of turning 14 and entering high school are numbered. Teenage angst is building and we are already competing against so many things like lacrosse games and practices and Boy Scout activities. I struggle with this. So I remained quiet, ignored their protests and walked around the conservatory, observing the environment around us.

Continue reading “Morpho Butterflies and Wendy’s Frostys”


During the last six weeks, Team Jackson has been all over Missouri and Illinois and I mean all over. We also had friends and family visit. That was so nice and I get choked up thinking about what their visit meant to us.  It was everything. So if you are inspired to come and visit please do! Little House in Missouri is waiting for you.

stcharles2Historic town of St. Charles, MO– We were lured here under false pretenses to attend an Oktoberfest with new friends and actually ended up enjoying most just walking the main street of this quaint old town. It was like out of a movie. The highlights of the day were eating ice cream and watching home made fudge being made.




stcharles7 Continue reading “Adventures”

A Visit to Grant’s Farm

FullSizeRenderA few weeks ago, the kids had their first day off fromFullSizeRender (1) school. What to do, what to do? In California, days off when it’s hot and muggy outside usually meant a beach trip. Since we didn’t have a beach to head to and thinking that we needed to explore our community a bit more, we headed to Grant’s Farm– a 281 acre animal reserve in St. Louis. This large property was also once owned by Ulysses S. Grant and the Dent Family.

FullSizeRender (2)Today, it is owned by the Busch Family- yep that Busch of Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company and like many things around Missouri, entrance into the park and the tram ride was free. Even the beer was free with each adult guest able to drink up to two free beer glasses. Super cool. My kids thought it was a hoot that I drank beer with my lunch and that we paid $3 dollars plus for a bottle of cold water.

When you first arrive at the farm, you get on a tram and are shuttled around the property for a relaxing, FullSizeRender (5)breezy, scenic tour of the grounds. ThereFullSizeRender (4) are free-roaming areas for deer, buffalo and horses. The grounds are very well maintained. We were also able to see from afar “Hardscrabble,” a four-room, two story cabin built by Ulysses S. Grant in 1855. It would have been neat to get down and peek inside the windows of the cabin but we were on the tram so it was pretty impossible. We did get to see lots of animals grazing and relaxing in their paradise. It was heavenly. Continue reading “A Visit to Grant’s Farm”