Friday, October 28, 2011

Riding the DART train to the Texas State Fair

Earlier this month, we took a trip to the Texas State Fair at Fair Park in Dallas. The State Fair has special ticket deals for homeschoolers so we could go free but only if it was on a Thursday. I was a little nervous about going without Stuart to such a big place full of distractions and trying to keep up with the two kids the like to run in opposite directions at the same time. However, I have super sweet friends that we went with which made it so much easier. They help with simple logistics like watching Nicholas while I take Rachel into the girls room to go potty. I'm so grateful for the little things they do!

Now my friends are adventurous which is one of the many reason that I love hanging out with them. When we were talking about going to the Fair together, one of them suggested that instead of driving to Dallas, we could all just meet up and take the DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) light rail train to Fair Park. While this sounds fun, I was a little nervous about where to catch the train, getting there on time, stepping on the correct train that would take us to Dallas and not Timbuktu, making sure we got off at the right stop and most importantly, making sure we had a ride back home when everyone in Dallas was trying to catch the train to leave work at the end of the day. The last thing I wanted to do was be stuck in Dallas after a long day at the fair with two very tired kids who were ready for dinner.

I had some reservations and kind of wanted to just drive us to the Fair so I'd have my own car if Rachel got too tired to hold out but the train just sounded too fun to chicken out. March forward we did!

The closest station to get on the train we wanted was in Carrollton. I found the station with no problem but couldn't find a parking spot. I started worrying that that extra 20 minutes I had given myself was going to get eaten up just looking for a spot. But after driving around just a few minutes, the perfect spot opened up. I learned later that there was another parking lot across the street that I could have used. Good to know for next time.

Whew! We made it to the station and were the first of our friends to arrive. This is really a big deal because since Rachel was born I'm always a few minutes late to everything. I try to plan ahead and leave room in the schedule for something to go wrong yet I'm still always late. But not today!

The tickets are purchased through a little vending machine. Seemed simple at first but it took me 3 tries and the help of a stranger before I actually got the tickets in my hand.


We've ridden on these light rail trains twice before when Stuart has been with us. But both of those trips were before Rachel was here and I don't know that Nicholas remembers much about them. He couldn't wait to get on!


Both of the kids were excited and doing well. We had lots of space to spread out although all of our friends stayed close together.


The ride was nice and Rachel thought it was funny how the train bumped her around some.



Nicholas was in his own seat behind Rachel and I. As they were both looking out the window together, Nicholas just started sweetly rubbing Rachel on the head. He's such a sweet and loving big brother!


The ride went exceptionally well with the two kids while we were out in the burbs but then.....

As we got closer to Dallas, there were more and more people hopping on the train. At one stop, the whole train went from light passengers to people standing and squeezed in to every available spot. Nicholas sat with a friend in one seat and Rachel and I were together in another. We were fine but I felt a little more tension with all the strangers suddenly packing in and the kids had still been a bit spread out throughout our car. There were several senior citizens standing so I had Rachel sit in my lap so that we could let an elderly woman share our seat. I'm sure Rachel had felt a little bit on edge as she watched the car fill up with strangers but when the stranger sat down right next to us, she was not happy. And unfortunately she let the stranger and everyone else on the car know about it. It started with some light whining and a subtle kick of her foot on the the lady's leg. I tried to get her eye contact and talk to her but she kept looking away from me and whining. Then she kicked at the lady several times. She was in my lap and I had pulled her as far away from the lady as possible but still the tips of her shoe was kicking the lady. I felt so terrible because I had offered the lady a seat to try to be nice, not realizing that I was setting her up for being stuck in a spot with my little Pele soccer player and she was the ball! The aisle was so packed with people standing that she couldn't have even stood up now if she had wanted to. I talked to Rachel more firmly and held her legs. She squealed and screeched and just tried to kick more. I'm sure the whole car wondered what I was doing to that sweet innocent little girl. Oh how embarrassing!

We all survived the train ride and I have never been more happy to get off of a train. The ride was really fun and I'd love to do it again. I just want to avoid that kind of crowd, at least until Rachel is a little older.

We found tons of fun things to do at the fair that were completely free. There is a lot of activities with animals. We toured Big Tex's Barnyard. There was a tour guide that talked to us about various animals there and we got to pet many along the way.


There were some really nice farm sets for the kids to play with. I wasn't surprised when Rachel went to play with them, especially the horses.


But even the older kids were having fun with the farm equipment and various stalls for the animals. They were quite impressive and very realistic...and after perusing a brochure for the manufacturer, I learned that they are very pricey too!


And, of course, you are never too old to stick your head through a wooden cut-out and make oink sounds like a pig!


The Longhorn was quite impressive to the kids. There were several "Wows" as we walked up to him.


Next we went to the Little Hands on the Farm exhibit. We've never done this before and it was super cute. Rachel found this shorter wooden cut-out and tried to be a pig too. But she just wanted to stick her head through the hole to look at the pig's body and never looked up to pose for a picture.


It was a full hands-on farming exhibit for children. They learned how to care for animals on the farm like feeding these chickens.


...and milking the cow.


Next she planted seeds in the soil.


And then harvested her crops!


She rode the tractor like all good farmers do.


And she sold her goods at the Farmer's Market.


She was given some pretend money at the Farmer's Market and was able to spend it in the store for a real treat she could eat. That was unexpected since the exhibit was totally FREE to go through!


We watched a cool dog show where the dogs were doing neat tricks and even long jumps into a pool of water. This particular show dog has only 3 legs but he could perform as well as the other dogs in the show!


There are cool pinwheels made of license plates from various states. I tried to get a picture of the three of us but as you can see, Rachel preferred to just run around in the background.


So I got a picture of her with them alone.


Next we went to the petting farm. Mrs. Heather bought a bunch of animal feed for all the kids to use. Nicholas fed this goat straight from his cup and the goat tried to eat the cup too!


We figured out that you are supposed to pour the food onto the little shovels and feed the goats from there. Ahh, makes more sense.


Rachel was braver than I expected and really enjoyed petting and talking to the animals.


After watching Nicholas feed the goats several times, she even wanted to jump in and do it herself. She wouldn't let me help her at all because, as she kept telling me, she's a "big girl"!


Awww, I love this two baby goats.


Nicholas and his friend sat for a rest in the giant John Deere wheel!


We saved the Midway for the end and let each child ride on one ride.


A friend took Nicholas and her son to ride a fast ride while Rachel and I kept things simple on the merry-go-round.


She absolutely loves merry-go-rounds!


What a fun day hanging out with our dear friends...


...while learning about animals, farming, and just having fun at the fair!


My only regret is that we didn't try any of the unique fried foods at the fair. Maybe all fairs are like this but the Texas State Fair seems to pride itself on coming up with new foods to fry each year. Some of them this year include fried cheesecake, fried mashed potatoes, fried coke, fried bubblegum, chicken fried bacon, and of course, fried butter.


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