Friday, August 29, 2014

Wisconsin Dells August 2014: Great Wolf Lodge

If you happen to have a conversation with my children, they will be sure to mention our trip to Wisconsin Dells, or, as Henry says, "the trip to the water slides!"

Though we did many other things on our short getaway, the water park inside our hotel was by far their favorite part.

Nick liked the "birdie area" the best, because he was too scared to do any of the tube slides. I think he probably went down the slides you see below at least 400 times during our stay at Great Wolf Lodge. Even now, weeks after we've returned, I hear about the "birdie area" and the water slides every single day.

We'd heard that this particular hotel was the best one in the area for little kids, and boy, was it ever. Even Grandma Toni loved it, though she wasn't into the water slides so much. She liked the lazy river, though!

There were multiple water park areas at Great Wolf Lodge, including three indoor ones and one outside. This area had two body slides and this climbing tree house. The bucket on top fills and then dumps every 5 minutes or so.

The weather was chilly for August, but the boys still liked hanging out in the outdoor pool. The lifeguards were great at this place (and so numerous), so we could relax and watch the kids without worrying.

I like swimming myself, but this place was a whole other level of swimming. Outside, there was a large pool plus a kid's area with water slides. Oh, and there were two large tube water slides as well.

Greg tried out the kiddie water slide and liked it!

Henry ended up being way more adventurous than Nick. He wanted to try every slide, and got upset if he was deemed too short. He went down this tube slide with Greg and I in a double tube, and he wanted to go again and again and again, even though he bounced up in the air when the tube landed.

I couldn't get Nick to go on any of the tube slides, and he would only go down the body slides in the kiddie area. He was tall enough to go, but too scared. I can understand that; when I was a child, I never liked rides that went up high. I think he must be like me in that way. I still won't go near roller coasters. Water slides, though, don't bother me. I also love wave pools.

Neither Henry nor Nick can swim, but the life jackets really helped them float and become more comfortable in the water. We spent lots of time in the wave pool, the lazy river, and the outdoor pool area. Nick could touch the bottom, but not Henry.

At least once every day, the boys ask me when we're going back to "our" water park. I think we're going to have to go again next year, at least for a day or two.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Wisconsin Dells Vacation August 2014: Lost Canyon Tours

Even though we were staying in a water park resort, we didn't want to spend the entire trip in the water. Each day, we went out sightseeing. On our first full day, we decided to start with Lost Canyon Tours. Basically, this was a horse and wagon tour of the canyon and woods.

I found this tour to be relaxing and scenic, though I wish it would've lasted longer. I stressed myself out quite a bit on this trip, trying to plan everything and find activities everyone would like. The horses seemed very used to people, and didn't even mind the boys touching them. (Yes, they asked permission first.)

Henry asked me about the "horsie feet," so I told him all about hooves and horse shoes. 

The boys got to meet our horses beforehand, and they even rubbed their soft noses. Then we got on board for the the wagon ride.

I think Greg was glad we weren't riding the horses this time

Most of my pictures include the horses' rear ends, of course, but this part of Wisconsin is quite pretty, once you get off of the touristy roads.

I thought it was neat how close our wagon came to the walls of the canyon.  I wouldn't want to drive through here--it'd be worse than parallel parking!

I love the way the sun shines through the trees in this spot. I was also amazed by how the trees actually grew their roots sideways into the porous rock walls.

Greg and I stood by the wishbone tree for a quick picture near the gift shop.

The weather was actually quite nice for most of our trip, though it was on the cooler side for August.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Busy Week

Today was a very busy day. Greg had hernia surgery, and it was an important conference day for me, so I couldn't miss work. Aunt Sarah came down with Grandma Toni to help with the boys while Greg had his procedure, and look who she brought with: Sophie!

Nick loved snuggling with his cousin Sophie. He kept asking to hold her. 

The boys were thrilled when they saw our visitors this morning. They were showing off for Aunt Sarah and Nick kept asking all sorts of questions. Henry was quite jealous of his cousin, especially later when I came home and was holding her. Unfortunately, I only had time to snap the one picture.  This whole week has been incredibly busy. Besides the boys having their first full week of school, I spent three days unpacking my classroom (34 boxes) and getting set up. Also, Henry's school had curriculum night, Greg started working an extra day each week, and I had to be back to work starting on Thursday. Whew!

Nick came back from Kindergarten on Monday with this neat picture he colored. I like his purple and green color scheme; it is both creative and a little eccentric, just like my firstborn son. He also made this funky raccoon puppet for the story The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn.

Nick also worked on his writing this week. As you can see, he needs lots of practice with his letters, but he's showing a little more perseverance. I've been helping him with his handwriting each night. This is my fifteenth year of teaching, and I've had groups of Kindergarten and First Grade students for the last seven years. In fact, writing is often my focus. It's a whole different ball game, though, when it is your own child!

Let's not leave Henry out--he has been doing some great work as well!

His teacher doesn't believe in cookie-cutter artwork, so these creations are all Henry's design. He told me all about them, too. "Um, I did a dot here--green, green, green. Then I went like this (swooshing his hand) red, and dot dot dot yellow."

I told Henry the red streak looked like a shooting star. "No," he said. "Is a dot." Well, he's right, I guess. In case you were wondering, Greg's procedure went very well, and he's at home recovering.  See? He even did story time with the boys tonight. I'm sure he'll be sore for awhile, but Greg said the pain wasn't too bad.

I didn't have anything planned for dinner, so I did a quick inventory of the pantry and fridge and decided to make pizza from scratch. I used the dough function on my bread machine and topped it with fresh basil and tomatoes from my garden. I found spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes in the fridge. Oh, and I had leftover ricotta in the fridge, so I dumped some on, too.

I think it turned out pretty well for an improvised recipe. I made the same mistake I always make, though: I added way too much cheese. It always looks fine before I bake the pizza.

The boys liked my pizza, anyway. The basil was sweet and it was tasty with the ricotta.

Henry said this picture should be called, "Darth Vader eats pizza." 

Not only did the boys eat their pizza, but while I was making it, they kept "stealing" mushrooms and peppers and tomatoes off the counter. It's my trick for getting more veggies into them. I won't give them any other pre-dinner snacks, but they know I'll let them sneak veggies. Henry took a whole plate of spinach and was walking around eating it like a little bunny rabbit.

This weekend, I'll try to write some more about our trip to Wisconsin Dells. I couldn't resist posting my pics from today, though.  :)  Happy Friday!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wisconsin Dells Vacation August 2014: Lunch in Madison

On our way to Wisconsin Dells for our family vacation, we stopped in Madison for lunch. Greg and I both like Madison, and we've found some really good restaurants there in the past.

Can you tell Henry was ready to start our vacation?

On this day, we stopped at a place called Graze for brunch. I like to use my Yelp app to find restaurants, and I trust the ratings to find really yummy places. You can see my review of Graze here.

We had a hard time finding parking, and we figured out finally that this restaurant is right across the street from the capitol building. How cool is that?

Nick is making a Greg expression here. Doesn't he look like his daddy?

I ordered beignets, which are these little french donuts. You could just call them divine, or amazing, or just yum. Henry was mad that I didn't order more. Honestly, I was, too.

We had a delicious lunch, and I ate some of the best kielbasa I've ever had. We all liked the food, though Nick and Henry really just wanted us to leave so that we could get to the water park faster.

Do you see the cool chalkboards in the back? If I lived closer to Madison, I think we'd want to visit this place often. The food was worth the extra drive off of the expressway.

After lunch, we walked around for just a bit before getting into the car to head to Wisconsin Dells.

Madison is a very picturesque town, and I think I would've liked going to college here. It seems like a very walkable town with lots to see and do.  The picture below was taken right outside Graze.

Some of the streets were blocked off, and we figured out why as we were leaving.

The Gay Pride Parade was going to start in a few hours. Too bad we had a schedule to keep--I've never been to a pride parade and I think it would've been really cool.

This is, of course, just one of many posts about our vacation. I'll write more later, this time about the water parks.   :)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Back to School 2014

Kids around here start back to school really early. In fact, we got back from our vacation in Wisconsin Dells (more about that later), and the very next morning the boys started school. This year Nick was off to Kindergarten, and Henry started his first year of Preschool.

Do they look excited? Mostly, they were, though they were pretty tired. None of us is used to waking up before 7 a.m. yet.

Nick really wanted to wear his clown nose from Circus World Museum, but I told him no.

Though I posed them together, Henry actually starts school much earlier than Nicholas. The bus picks him up around 7:30. Last year, Henry was very jealous of Nick, because he wasn't big enough to start school. He peeked out from the window, pouting. See?

First day of school 2013

Since Henry got to go to school first this year, Nick peeked out from the window while Henry posed.

I asked Henry what he thought about starting school, and he was kind of noncommittal about the whole thing. He was generally happy, but not too sure about what would happen.

Henry will attend a five-day morning preschool program at our school district's preschool. He will receive lots and lots of speech help, in addition to the normal benefits of preschool. This is the same place Nick went to preschool, so Henry is familiar with the building (and the playground) from attending school events.

I think Henry looks a lot like his daddy in this picture. 

We wondered if Henry would be nervous when we left him on the bus, but he just grinned and waved goodbye to us with no tears or trepidation.

Nick starts school much later this year, and we live close enough that he can walk to school. Since my school doesn't start for another week, I was able to go with and see Nick off to his first day of Kindergarten.


It is pretty neat to be the parent dropping off my kid. I'm used to working the front door as a staff member (albeit at a different school), watching all the other parents take pictures in front of the school sign. Until my first day of teacher institute next Thursday, I get to walk to school with Nick every day.  :)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Getting Ready for Back-to-School

Alas, summer vacation is almost over. After one last hurrah at the beginning of next week, the boys will start school on Friday. This year, both of my babies will be headed off to academia: Nick will be going to Kindergarten, and Henry will be starting preschool. The first order of business? Haircuts for these formerly shaggy gentlemen.

Nick loved sitting in the Lightning McQueen car.

Even though both of my sons are technically blonde, their hair is wildly different. Nick's hair, which used to be curly, has turned a very dark shade of blonde and gotten mostly straight in the last two years. His hair is very thick with a major cowlick in the back.

Nick really hated the feel of the smock around his neck. He kept trying to rip it off.

Henry, on the other hand, has coarse, fuzzy hair that is much lighter and has been turned almost white from being in the sunshine so much this summer.

 While it is being cut, the little pieces of Henry hair fly around and get everywhere.

Henry rocked the faux-hawk once again. 

After their haircuts, we headed to Target for school supply shopping. Both boys needed new sneakers, and I had two school supply lists to fulfill. Our cart soon filled with supplies. I let them each pick out their own take-home folder and they chose Angry Birds Holographic ones.

After all the school supplies, it was time to find backpacks. Nick found one that he said looked like "outer space." I was just glad it came with matching headphones, which his school supply list said he needed for Kindergarten.

Henry found an R2D2 backpack that actually makes noises. He was thrilled beyond belief at his good fortune.

Because I'm a teacher myself, I understand the specificity requested for school supplies, but I guess I'm not used to having two kids in school. I believe our total was around $150 for school supplies, backpacks, and two pairs of on-sale shoes. Yeesh.

You can see Nick's backpack in the background. 

Both boys wore their new backpacks around the store, but Henry continued to wear his all around the house. He even performed some happy dances about going to school. Then, before heading to bed last night, Henry sat and practiced writing his letters on the ipad for easily 45 minutes. I think he's ready for preschool!