Sorry for the long silence. March came in like a lion in more ways than one around here. Not only was the weather horrible, but all four of us managed to come down with Influenza A during week one of March. Week two found Peter and the girls feeling better, but the flu morphed into a sinus infection and bronchitis for me. The coughing and headaches might have even been worse than the initial flu. So forgive me for not posting. I’ve been in a bit of a fog.

The good news is March week three brought much improvement to my heath and more interestingly, our family’s spring break vacation to Wisconsin Dells, Waterpark Capital of the World. We enjoyed a three night stay at the Wilderness Resort, which boasts four indoor waterparks, plus a variety of other attractions.

I didn’t get a ton of pictures (because water and cameras don’t mix and because Peter and I were too busy just trying to keep up with the girls), but here are my best shots:

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We spent the majority of our time exploring the different waterparks, but we squeezed in a trip downtown to eat at MACS Macaroni and Cheese Shop, which I have to mention because it was sensationally good. Why aren’t there more restaurants whose entire menu is gourmet variations on mac and cheese? One of life’s mysteries, I suppose.

We also spent one evening chilling in our suite, watching Disney’s Frozen and eating popcorn:DSC_8348

Both girls seemed particularly intrigued by the sisterly storyline. After the movie, Alethea was overheard saying to Lydia, “Don’t worry, you won’t turn to ice. You’ll be my sister forever!”

And then there was swimming and more swimming (and lots of water slide riding, of which I could not for the life of me get a decent picture).

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Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Ken-Ducky Derby. Every morning at 8:30am they race rubber duckies down the lazy river. We went two mornings and somehow Lydia’s ducks managed to win both mornings, so she ended up with a duck whistle and a water bottle. Alethea’s ducks weren’t quite as fast, but I was super proud of her for being happy just getting to keep the ducks. She was quite cheerful about it and is already talking about doing more duck races “when we go back”.

DSC_8341So that’s where we’ve been. My plan for this coming week is to attempt to get back to a normal schedule. Here’s hoping March week 4 is in fact like a lamb. Come on spring!

The Great Outdoors

Last summer it felt like we spent nearly every weekend working on our front porch remodel. I was so hoping that by paying professionals to install our fence and sprinkler system that we would avoid spending so many Saturday mornings toiling away this summer. Turns out that building raised beds, starting a garden, landscaping a fire pit area, sprucing up around the mailbox, and spreading 14 yards of black dirt in preparation for growing grass still take a lot of time. Lots of Saturday mornings.

This past weekend, however, we headed up to Bayfield, WI to spend some time camping, exploring, and berry picking in the great outdoors. Outside time with no improvement projects… what a novel concept…

Turns out tree stumps make excellent performance stages
Our camp site had two, one for each little girl…

Alethea told us she was giving a speech
We’ve been saying she just might be the lawyer of the family
Giving ‘stump speeches’ might indicate a different career path though

Who loves camping?
This girl!

Took a hike down to the shore along the campground
Both girls came back with a ‘fishing pole’ which doubled nicely as a walking stick

Peter and I sure enjoyed picking strawberries
Can you guess what Alethea and Lydia liked most about the farm?

Lake Superior is, in my opinion, far too cold for wading
The girls thought otherwise

Alethea took in every detail of our ferry ride to Madeline Island for dinner Saturday night
She asked a boatload of questions

We all thought our after dinner ice cream was a great treat
However, I think Lydia enjoyed hers the most

We stopped at a playground in Duluth on our way home to let the girls take a car break
1000 Daddy points to Peter for coming up with the idea

So that was our landscaping free weekend. We all needed it and the girls are already asking when we can go camping again, so I’d say it was a success. Gotta love family togetherness that doesn’t end with wailing and tears.

Hope you all had a great weekend too!

And…. We’re Back!

Sorry for the long blogging break.  We’ve had a busy last week or so.  Here’s what we’ve been up to…

Last week Monday through Thursday, we took a little family vacation to a hotel/waterpark in Duluth.  Not the most exotic destination, I know, but after last year’s somewhat disastrous spring break trip, we decided to keep it simple and affordable by avoiding air travel and limiting the trip to four days.  And what do you know, it pretty much worked.  There were some melt downs and Alethea started asking to go home a full 24 hours before our departure, but over all, Peter and I agreed that it was one of the best family vacations we’ve had since Alethea and Lydia arrived on the scene.

Naturally, the waterpark was the highlight of the trip and the yellow slides were the highlight of the waterpark.  It did take the girls three trips to the pool before they worked up the bravery to duck under all the falling water to access the slides, but once that was done, they were interested in trying nothing else.

The Friday morning after our trip we took it easy at home and tried to do a post-vacation decompress, but that evening I went out with some friends for a ladies night out at a restaurant/bowling alley in Minneapolis.  Unexpectedly ran into my brother-in-law there, hanging out with his friends, which made me feel good to know that I’m at least cool enough to frequent the same establishment as people who are still young and childless.  Maybe I’m not SO old?

Let’s not dwell on that question… So, Saturday we took the girls to a local Easter egg hunt.  There aren’t too many places in the world where hundreds of people would show up in 30 degree weather to pick up plastic eggs out of several feet of snow, but Minnesota is one of the few.  And yes, Alethea did choose to wear a dress and yes, she was quite cold.

The girls both enjoyed gathering eggs, were thrilled to discover that they contained candy and afterwards, Alethea was even brave enough to have her picture taken with the Easter bunny.

Lydia was not so confident and actually twitched nervously every time the bunny moved, so I have no picture to share of her snuggling up to him.  I did get a good one of the girls hugging each other though…

Sunday was church and afterwards a friend and I stayed to do some painting.  It was supposed to be a couple of quick walls, but then we kept finding more to do, so I arrived home late in the evening, quite sore, and not at all ready to jump back into our regular routine on Monday morning.  Oh well!

So now we’re all back to our usual stuff: playing with stuffed animals, going to work, reading books, teaching piano lessons, doing dishes and lots and lots of laundry.  Oh and planning Alethea’s birthday party, buying her present off Craigslist (she’s getting a bike, it’s pink and has streamers on the handlebars), prepping for Easter dinner (we’re hosting) and tracking down stuff for the girl’s baskets. And dreaming of spring… always, always dreaming of spring… sigh…

What have you all been up to lately?

Vacation Destination: Arizona

Alright, so I know I promised some photos from our vacation to Arizona a couple weeks ago.  I’m here to deliver the goods, but fair warning that since it was a family reunion, I didn’t take a ton of pictures.  A lot of our time was spent just hangin’ around, which was very enjoyable, but not always photo worthy.

Arizona is about as different from Minnesota as you can get, so there were lots of things that were totally new to the girls.  As our flight was descending into Phoenix, Peter pointed out the window and said to Alethea, “Look at the mountains!”  Apparently her only context for the word “mountain” is a children’s song, because she responded, “Are those what the bear went over?”

Another totally new thing was all the cacti.  They had a chance to get up close and personal with one.  Naturally Clifford and Baa-baa had to check out the cactus too.  Also predictably, Alethea proceeded with extreme caution, and Lydia just had to find out what Mommy and Daddy meant when they said it was sharp.  Turns out, it was in fact, sharp.  Lesson learned.

Peter’s mom was nice enough to watch the girls for an afternoon so we could go out with some of the rest of the family and go on a little horseback trail ride adventure.  We were quite happy to find a place with a relaxed attitude that let us do some trotting, ride side by side and periodically mix up the order.

I’m pretty proud of this shot given that it was taken one handed, over my shoulder on a moving horse.

Mostly I have to wonder about people who live in the southwest.  I don’t think I could do it.  I like trees.  I need trees.  But there really is something about the sky there.  It’s really big and really blue.  Breathtakingly so.

We visited a nature center one morning.  The girls had fun on the puppet stage with their second cousins and “Uncle ‘Teve”.

Peter went for an afternoon hike one day with his dad and brother and got this cool shot of the moon coming up over the butte.

Every vacation we try to get an ornament for our Christmas tree, so we had to hit up the Christmas store.  This year we let the girls each pick one out as well.  Peter and I got a blown glass cowboy boot, Alethea selected a pink glass ice cream cone and Lydia went for an adorable buri owl.

That trip to the Christmas store along with some delicious meals, hanging out with family, soaking in the hot tub, a couple games of Settlers of Catan, one trip to the ice cream parlor and getting caught in a traffic jam on the way back to the airport rounds out the “what we did on our vacation” list.

So, mostly good, not too much bad and no one puked, which means we are officially calling this vacation a success!  Whew!

A Four-Day Vacation

We took a little four day vacation together as a family this past Saturday-Tuesday.  It was actually two mini vacations rolled into one slightly larger one.  We spent two days at a lake with friends and two days camping on the North Shore (Lake Superior) with my family.  Here are my favorite pictures from the trip:

As you can tell, the girls were a little out of their element, and from time to time it showed, but we really did have a good trip.  They were troopers and apart from Lydia’s bedtime melt-down on our first camping night and some serious whining from the back seat during the car ride home, we all stayed happy and well-occupied.  Alethea was more daring in trying new thing than I expected her to be and both girls were surprisingly careful about keeping a safe distance from the fire, which I was happy about.  Alethea says her favorite part was roasting marshmallows and I’d say both girls also enjoyed the wild raspberry picking/eating along the trail we hiked.

I’ll admit that I am extremely glad to be home to my own bed, hot water and indoor plumbing, but it was totally worth the sore back and showerless days to see Alethea and Lydia having fun exploring the great outdoors.  In fact, we’re already planning for next years trip.  Can’t wait!

To Seattle and Back Again Part 1

Call us adventurous, call us crazy, but on Saturday morning the 10th we hopped on a Seattle bound airplane with the girls for our ‘spring break’ vacation.  We thought the early morning airplane ride might be a lot for the girls to handle, but surprisingly they did pretty well.   Since food is one of the only things that keeps Lydia’s interest for long periods of time, we let them both eat as many snacks as they wanted.  Consequently, we went through almost an entire bag of Teddy Grahams, but that along with books and a nap for Lydia and a Clifford DVD on Daddy’s laptop for Alethea kept the girls busy for the duration of the three hour flight.

After we arrived, we got our rental car, picked up a pack ‘n’ play from Peter’s cousin’s house and then headed to my aunt’s house in Tacoma to get settled in.  We had dinner at a fun restaurant in Puyallup called the Powerhouse.  The building was constructed as a power substation for the Puget Sound Electric Railway in 1907.  Good food, cool atmosphere.  We recommend it.

Alethea didn’t eat much though, and we discovered why shortly after we arrived back at my aunt’s place.  “I need to throw  up,” she told me as I was getting the girls ready for bed.  And thus began the worst night of vacation ever that involved not one, but two sick little girls, multiple bedding changes and not much sleep.  Uggg…. “Tomorrow will be better,” I kept telling myself.

Sunday morning came and the girls were done being sick, so that was good.  The weather was overcast, but not pouring rain, also good, so we decided to try Point Defiance Park.  We originally thought we might visit the zoo there, but Alethea was fairly adamant that she didn’t want to go.  Keeping in mind the $30 in wasted admission fees that preceded our disastrous tour of the Nashville Zoo on our last vacation, we nixed the zoo plan and went for the free Owen Beach instead.

Owen Beach, Point Defiance Park, Tacoma, WA

The beach was nice.  Gorgeous scenery.  I’m sure with better weather we could have stayed all day, but it was in the low 40s and we hadn’t brought mittens for the girls, so once they got whiny, we decided to try to find lunch.  At first Alethea balked at the idea of another restaurant, but finally she conceded that if we could find a quiet place that served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, she’d be okay.  A quick consultation with our GPS revealed that we were less than two miles from a place called the Antique Sandwich Co.  I pulled out my cell phone and with a brief call confirmed that they indeed served PB&J.   On the ride over, we wondered what parents on vacation used to do before Garmin and iPhone and crossed our fingers that the Antique Sandwich would be quiet enough for Alethea’s taste.

It was perfect!  Not only was it quiet, with PB&J on the menu, but it had a stage that was covered in toys!  The girls played happily while we waited for our food and then we dug in.  Alethea didn’t eat much again, but Lydia thought the gourmet peanut butter with all natural raspberry jam was pretty doggone good.

Antique Sandwich Co, Tacoma, WA

After lunch we headed back to my aunt’s house for some much needed naps.  That evening we ate at my aunt’s house and got to visit with my aunt and uncle, as well as my Grandma Frances who lives with them.  We were really glad to be able to see them and for my grandmother to get to spend some time with the girls.  Although I enjoyed visiting with my family, I sensed that Alethea wasn’t having a blast.  “Tomorrow will be better,” I told her, “We’ll do something really fun!”

Monday arrived rainy and cold.  That further cemented our initial plan, which was to visit the Children’s Museum in downtown Tacoma.  After talking it up to Alethea and telling her how much fun it was going to be and how there were going to be lots of things for her to play with, we drove downtown, found a place to park and walked over to the museum, through the front doors, only to discover that one feature of the museum we hadn’t known about was Member’s Only Mondays.  Groan!  After declining to purchase a $100 annual membership, we headed back out into the rain, to make the six block trek to the History Museum.  Alethea decided to punish us at that point by refusing to be carried, so we trudged slowly down the sidewalk, to arrive at the State History Museum’s locked doors marked “Closed Mondays”.  To make a long story short, Peter ended up carrying a screaming Alethea eight blocks through the rain back to the car, where we buckled in two screaming girls and drove to a playground where we mused over the fact that we’d spent a bunch of money on plane tickets to find ourselves on a wet playground in 40 degree weather while our friends back home basked in an un-Minnesota-like 70s and sun.  “Next year, we’re doing Florida,” we agreed.

The one bright spot on Monday happened that evening.  It really was wonderful watching my grandmother play with the girls.  She truly enjoyed them and I’m so glad they got to see her.

Alethea, Lydia and Great Grandma Frances

Monday was our last day in Tacoma.  “Let’s get an early start,” said Peter that evening. “I’ve checked on everything we want to do in downtown Seattle and it’s all open on Tuesdays, so if we get packed up fast enough we can visit the aquarium and then spend some time walking around Pike Place Market.”

“Sounds good,” I replied.  “Tomorrow has got to be better…”

Falling off the Face of the Earth

No, that’s not what happened to me.  You might think so being as it’s been over a week since I’ve written a post, but it’s not true.  I spent the whole week on the planet.  I was in Iowa some of the time, but contrary to popular belief around these parts, Iowa is not an alien nation.  Here’s a summary of our week, to corn country and back!

Visiting Great Grandma and Grandpa

We spent three lovely days last week visiting my grandparents in Iowa.  Everyone seemed to get along well and it was fun to have Grandpa Jim and Grandma Ruth meet Lydia for the first time.

We took one afternoon to visit the local water park.  The girls thought that was pretty cool.

I jumped at the opportunity to play photographer out in my Grandmother’s garden.  (Someday I hope my yard looks half as beautiful as her’s.)

No wireless for my computer, and lots of nature all around.  Ahh… some rest for my soul…

And Then… Back to Reality

I don’t have any real excuse for why I haven’t posted since our return from Iowa last Thursday.  Just life.  You know, things like dropping a boat load of money on a tent and other supplies at REI so we can take our 2 year old and six month old camping.  (Yes, we might be insane to try it.)

Also, getting my fall registration materials out to my students.  I like being a piano teacher, but typing up forms, writing studio policies and creating a calendar isn’t my favorite part of the job, so at least that’s done for the year.

Got to go downtown and have lunch with Peter today while his mom so graciously watched the girls.  I can’t remember the last time we had lunch. alone. together.  Sort of a weird feeling… but I like it!

Insert various other social engagements, church, errands and assorted things that would not be in any way amusing to read about and that about sums up my week (and a day) falling off and then back onto planet Earth.

To Philly and Back Again

As most of you probably know, I spent two years living in Philly after I graduated from college.  This past weekend Peter, Alethea and I took a family vacation to Philadelphia.  It was sort of a 3 year wedding anniversary gift for us, although, I have to admit, the trip was more for me than for Peter.  I know I married a great guy when he’s willing to spend his family vacation of the year visiting my old friends.  The trip wasn’t a total loss for Peter though, as we were able to procure genuine south Philly cheese steaks:

We also got to take Alethea to Love Park, which is where Peter proposed to me 4 years ago:

Friends were visited, including many of the seniors from the senior community center where I worked as well as my two former roommates, Katie Jo and Ann.

Alethea was a trooper and everyone enjoyed meeting her.  She even did pretty well on the airplane with only a few squawks here and there to indicate her boredom.

Over all, I’d say the trip was a success.  It was so nice to catch up with old friends and enjoy city living once more.