A scenic view on the way to Natural Bridge
After spending the night nearby and eating breakfast, we started our day at the Virginia Safari Park. It was one of the most fun places we've ever taken the girls. You can drive your car or ride in one of the park's trucks along a 3-mile route where llamas, deer, emu, buffalo, and other animals walk right up to your vehicle to eat out of buckets. The most aggressive animals (mostly llamas) stood at the beginning of the drive, and they practically climbed into the car to get to the food, whether we were offering it to them or not! One managed to grab the entire bucket of food out of my dad's hand and take off with it! The animals were less aggressive the farther along the road we drove, but we were out of food by the time we got to the calm ones.
Emma shrieked and laughed hysterically the entire time! She was half terrified and half thrilled about the animals reaching right into the car. She kept us in stitches the whole time, and we still laugh thinking about the experience.
Hallie leaned back as far as she could in her seat to avoid contact with the animals, but she seemed to enjoy watching them eat right over her lap.
Once we were done with the drive, we visited the rest of the Safari Park where we saw zoo animals like monkeys, tigers, kangaroos, and cheetahs. The second highlight of the day was the large canary cage we walked into with bird seed sticks. The beautiful birds landed right on our sticks to eat the seed, so we all enjoyed close encounters with them.
There were also fun play areas for the kids throughout the Safari Park.
Once we finished at the Safari Park and ate a quick lunch, we drove to Natural Bridge State Park.
The Natural Bridge (behind us) was only a short distance from the park entrance.
Two of our very favorite people!
After seeing Natural Bridge, we walked two miles out and back along a scenic river to view a lovely waterfall at the end of the trail. They had recreated a Native American village that visitors could explore. It was a beautiful day, and a fun place to spend it!
Shortly after our Natural Bridge trip, Dan suffered from a piriformis muscle injury, which caused intense sciatic nerve pain down his left leg. He couldn't lie, sit, stand, or walk without extreme pain for several days, and wasn't able to go into work. It was so sad to see him lying around in agony, with nothing we could do to help him. After two urgent care visits and several days taking prescription medications, he was at least able to move again. He's been visiting a highly recommended chiropractor and has seen slow improvement. He's still a long way from feeling normal again, but at least he's able to function and is feeling less pain after three weeks.
Hallie is supporting Dan while he does his daily stretches. Heh! Actually, he couldn't sit up to read the book she wanted because it was too painful, so she laid on the floor with him so he could still read to her.
While Dan was laid up, I took the girls to a fun harvest festival at one of our neighborhood churches. Emma dressed up as Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony, and Hallie was a pink princess.
They had bounce houses and pony rides!
Hallie's very first pony ride.
There were also game booths and face painting. Hallie sat still long enough to have a flower painted on her cheek.
Emma asked for a pink unicorn
Our church, Colonial Baptist, had a hot dog and marshmallow roast one evening, too.
The girls roasting their marshmallows. Another first for Hallie!
On Halloween night, we drove the girls to Williamsburg to trick or treat with Dan's brother, Tim's, family. Dan's parents joined us as well as some of our nephews' friends, so we had a pretty big group of candy collectors!
Our awesome group of kids
Emma dressed as Skye, the flying dog from Paw Patrol, and Hallie was a pink princess again. I love their poses.
We also went to the Suffolk, VA "Touch a Truck" event, where the kids could see and sit inside various service vehicles. They had everything from police cars, fire trucks, construction vehicles, campers, school buses, trains, etc. Plus, they handed out candy to all the kids.
Emma pretended to be a police officer
and a construction worker
Hallie got to "drive" a school bus
Dan and the girls toured a train car
There was even a big celebrity at the event! Of course we had to eat lunch at Chick-Fil-A afterwards.
The next week, Hallie and I did our civic duty on our day off together
Emma and her friend from school, Elisha, had a play date at MacArthur Center, a mall in Norfolk. They had an awesome winter wonderland exhibit with fake snow, stuffed arctic animals, and Santa!
We didn't pay for a photo with Santa, but he was very sweet and came over to talk to Emma and give her a Christmas bracelet.
Emma took the cutest Kindergarten picture. She's been learning so much in school this year.
Her class got to lead the school chapel service one Thursday. They recited Psalm 100.
And sang and danced to "Good Good Father" by Chris Tomlin. Emma danced right up front in the pink dress, and she got to make an announcement for the audience to "stand and worship with us". She did a great job!
The Friday before Thanksgiving week is StoneBridge School's annual Christian Heritage Day. The kids got to dress as pilgrims or Native Americans and participate in educational activities all day.
They played games, watched demonstrations, and listened to historical accounts. The highlight, of course, were the sweet petting zoo animals they brought to school.
The day ended with a traditional Thanksgiving feast in their classroom.
Emma's classmates and teacher, Mrs. Boyce
The girls let me put their hair in pigtails (a miracle!) so they could pretend to be puppies with ears. Haha! We've loved making special memories with them this month.