Weekend Reflections 09.09.2018: The First Week of School and My Chicago Mini Vacation

Hello!

I am writing this on about four hours of sleep after driving/walking/shopping for most of the last two days, so bear with me if I’m not making any sense! I thought about writing this post tomorrow instead, but I have enough stuff to do tomorrow!

Anyway, it’s definitely been a typical first week of school transitional period where everyone is in awful moods and ready to burst into emotional meltdown at the tiniest infraction. As much as I love this time of the year, it’s definitely exhausting. I was so antsy to get back into my own routines too, but I think I was putting too much pressure on myself to instantly be back in the thick of things. But we made it and live to tell about it, and hopefully the next few weeks will be easier!

Sunday and Monday were fairly uneventful. The boys were soaking up every available minute with their friends. Greg and I were trying to take it pretty easy, resting from our ailments. By Monday my pinched nerve was barely noticeable, thank goodness! I was hoping to have some sort of last day of summer celebration, but decided just hanging out with their friends was good enough. That’s all they wanted to do anyway.

Tuesday was the first day of school. Caden was actually really excited about it! Shepard was wavering, but I think he was looking forward to seeing his friends every day again.

Our annual photo session was done at superspeed because swarms of mosquitoes were out to kill! It was seriously miserable. We all had bug spray on too and it didn’t make a bit of difference.

Ran into Willow as we were walking. When they found out they were in the same class a few weeks ago they were crazy excited. I’m very happy for them. πŸ™‚

The boys spent half the walk screaming because of the mosquito attacks. And half the walk ten steps ahead of me so they could discuss Minecraft. This past year I’ve often wondered what the point of me walking with them even is!

We went to the middle school first and met up with the neighborhood gang. The older kids seemed pretty chill about the first day. I think Shepard was a little sad that we had to leave them all behind when we walked over to the elementary school for him.

But once he saw his friends he was fine! I had to chase him down to say goodbye and he refused to give me a hug. Too cool for mom!

I spent my first day home alone deep cleaning the house. Those kinds of chores feel so pointless in summer when kids are constantly running through and destroying all of my efforts ten seconds after I do them. It felt really good to get everything fresh and ready for the week.

I picked them up after and it sounds like everything went well! The biggest news is that Shepard PEED! At school! During the day! On the first day! You cannot even begin to understand how much of a struggle the last two years have been. He has never, not even once, gone to the bathroom during the school day. He wasn’t even potty trained in preschool or 4K like he was supposed to be. And in kindergarten and first grade he just expertly held it in. The only time he had an accident was at the very end of the last school year and I think it was only because he wasn’t feeling well. Anyway, it’s a BIG DEAL that he went during school every single day this week and I think our struggles are over!!!

Caden is the more emotional one, so I didn’t get a lot of information out of him about how things are going, but he seems pretty happy. He likes his teacher. He gets to see some of his best friends at lunch and recess. I think he feels pretty cool being a big kid in the middle school now. Growing up!

Wednesday was picture day. They were both so mad at me that I made them wear these new shirts. I’m switching it up from the Chaps plaid button shirts I’ve made them wear every picture day to date. I can’t wait to see how they turned out!

I had a major errand day on Wednesday, though that wasn’t my original plan. But, things are breaking in our house left and right right now, and I had to go buy a new faucet for our bathroom sink. And if I already have to leave town for one errand, you better believe I’m going to make the most of the drive, fitting in as much as I can! I also went to Target, Woodman’s, the UPS Store, and ate some Wendy’s chicken on the way home. Then I took a nap! And worked the rest of the day.

Thursday was a HUGE work day. I finally forced myself to sit down and just get it done. I finished up all these dolls and got them listed by dinnertime. Then my friend Deja came over for a craft night. I wasn’t in the mood to start back in on new dolls, so I organized my huge stamp collection – a messy job that I’ve been putting off for about two months. It wasn’t particularly fun, but it felt great to get it done. And it was so nice to have a friend night! One of the best parts of the new school year is that everyone suddenly seems interested in rekindling friendships. I think we’re all just trying to survive in the summer and can’t handle that one more thing. But in fall our minds get freed up a bit and we’re more willing to go the extra mile to make friend things happen.

I don’t really remember what I did Friday. I was supposed to be working! But I didn’t, at all. Oh yeah, I made cinnamon rolls, I made salsa, I went to the ATM and got gas, I went to one grocery store on purpose, and then I went to another grocery store when I realized I didn’t have cream cheese for my cinnamon roll frosting. I walked Annie. I did some cleaning and laundry and packed for my weekend. We celebrated surviving the week with the cinnamon rolls.

The very sad news Friday is that my mom’s dog Juno passed away. πŸ™ She was about 14 years old and going downhill fast, but it still took everyone by surprise how fast it happened in the end. She was a wonderful dog that was loved beyond measure by my mom. She had a very long and happy life with the best dog mom in the world. She will forever be missed.

Saturday was start to my big Chicago adventure weekend. On Friday when I was researching out my route I realized this awesome store in Beloit was on the way. I went to their facebook page to check out their hours and saw that there just happened to be a huge vintage market happening in Rockford on Saturday – also on my route. I was SO excited to find something unique to do that I’d absolutely love. And it didn’t disappoint!! I think it was even better than Cranberry Fest, which is one of my all time favorite days of the year. Though Cranberry Fest is also special because I go with my parents and we have a lot of fun together. But next year, we’re going to this too. FOR SURE. There were about 175 vendors and every single booth was filled with all the vintage type stuff that I adore. It was packed, but everything was fairly spread out so you never got that suffocated feeling like you do in the aisles at Cranberry Fest. And all the shoppers were just in the best of moods too! It was a very relaxed and happy atmosphere and I LOVED IT. I didn’t buy much, mostly because I wasn’t interested in carrying it back to my car (through a huge long grassed muddy and bumpy field – basically the worst possible walking conditions for my ankle). I picked out these two signs for my sewing room. And later I finally found a large wall sign with a great saying I couldn’t say no to.

The only downside is that the lines to pay and the lines for food and drinks were so long. I wish I had gotten lunch at like ten when I noticed nobody in lines. Instead I probably spent at least twenty minutes waiting in line at this marshmallow trailer to get a frozen hot chocolate, s’mores style. She also sold all kinds of gourmet s’mores, fresh and hot. I decided to skip that even though they looked amazing, assuming they’d be too messy. Butttt this was just as messy. If not more. My hands were immediately coated in marshmallow which I transferred to my phone when I took this picture. I kept trying to get my hands cleaned off, but my only option was my shorts or dry grass! The whole market was in the country with only outhouses and not a sink in sight. But, I think it was worth it. πŸ™‚ The homemade marshmallow fluff was my favorite part. So tasty!

I stayed at the market for three hours, looking at everything two or three times. Then I headed further south to Schaumburg, where my hotel was. At that point I was starving, and desperate for something more substantial to eat. I just stopped at Portillo’s, as the first unique restaurant I came upon. I decided to go a little out of my restaurant comfort zone (i.e. chicken) and ordered an Italian beef with spicy peppers and cheese fries. I’m not sure I’d get it again, but it wasn’t bad! I was so hungry that I think anything would have fit the bill! Madison is getting a Portillo’s soon, so I’m curious to see if the restaurant is built in the same manner as the Chicago branches.

After my late lunch I had just enough time to stop in at a TJMaxx (of course) before checking into my hotel. I did a little reading and then spent way too much time trying to decide which of my outfits to wear for the big night and attempting to get my hair to curl and failing. My built in relaxing break of the day was not very relaxing!

While I definitely wasn’t super hungry at that point, I was still hoping to at the very least pick up a coffee or something at a gas station on my way to The Popcast show. But I underestimated how bad highway traffic was going to be at that time of day, or in that area, and didn’t have time. But I did get a great spot in line! My sister-in-law Melissa joined me before the doors opened. Though kind of defeating the purpose of the line, once we were inside we still couldn’t actually go in the theater for another half hour. But we got some great seats once we did!

Because I pre-ordered Knox’s book, I was actually able to get a signed ARC at the show! Lest you forget, I’m on the launch team for this book, which is crazy exciting to me. So you’re going to be hearing about it a lot in the next two months before it’s released. Or, you will be if you follow me on instagram or facebook! It’s genuinely a great book, though. So funny. So poignant. So relatable.

I splurged for VIP tickets, allowing us into the show early and able to watch the pre-show Q&A. That part wasn’t terribly exciting, but I loved the main show!! Melissa had never even listened to them, but I think she enjoyed it too. It was just so fun seeing the people I listen to 3-4 times a week right in front of me! I might be a tiny bit obsessed. But they also provide me a whole lot of joy in the most mundane parts of my day and I am devoted for life. If you haven’t already, LISTEN TO THE POPCAST. It’s so good. And then support them on Patreon because those episodes are even better. And then listen to them on The Bible Binge, their secondary podcast.

Overall, the whole day was awesome! My only regret was not going with Melissa to a unique taco restaurant after the show. I was starving, but I was also tired and didn’t want to deal with moving my car and finding another parking spot, late at night in unfamiliar territory. Instead I drove the half hour back to my hotel exit and then got a McDonald’s chicken sandwich that was stone cold by the time I got to my hotel room. πŸ™ I was exhausted, but also super hyped up, so I took a long shower and then watched the movieΒ Sierra Burgess is a Loser. It was a great night!

Today has not been as exciting. My original plan was to just chillax in the hotel all morning, but I was antsy to get moving and find something to do. So I went to an upscale grocery store in search of something for breakfast. Then hit up a Trader Joe’s and a Marshall’s. I walked quickly through Ikea because I was regretting not going when I was in Minnesota last month. And then I went to the gigantic Woodfield Mall. I didn’t have any great interest in being there, it just felt like something I should do. I didn’t stay long. Then I headed up to Beloit to hit up that store (Vintage Bliss) and finished my trip at Qdoba for a late lunch of knockout tacos in Madison. I got home around 3:30, totally exhausted. But I’ve been steadily cleaning and organizing and trying to get ready for the week.

Sunday Intentions

It’s kind of a weird week ahead. There’s not much on the calendar I NEED to do. But there are so many things I COULD do. The smart and driven part of my brain says I should forget all the extras and just work all week. I could use the sales! But the adventurous part of my brain wants to take advantage of all these cool things that happen in fall. I want to drop a few things off at my mom’s and do some grocery shopping in the morning. There’s a friend coffee date I’m planning to go to on Tuesday. One of my favorite stores is having a special fall shopping event on Wednesday. I might possibly have a friend thing Wednesday night. Thursday night there’s a Madison Night Market that looked really intriguing. I’ve been trying to keep the whole week open in case we’re doing any sort of early birthday celebration for Caden with Greg’s parents, but no word on that yet. And on Friday and Saturday I need to clean and shop and prep for Caden’s family birthday party on Sunday morning.

So…I’m not really sure how the week will go! I’m also feeling bad because I had all these plans to take Annie to so many dog parks in the Madison area, and I just can’t seem to fit it into my schedule because it’d basically take an entire day away from anything else. There are just so many things going on in September! So many birthday things for Caden too. Balance is what I’m striving for, I guess. I just don’t want to burn myself out and not be able to enjoy the fun times.

Anyway, I think it’s time for me to go to bed! It’s been quite a week!

Late Summer Vacations in Minnesota and La Crosse

This has been a whirlwind of a week, finishing our three mini vacations of the summer – all right in a row. We had our Fox Lake cottage vacation last weekend with Greg’s parents. Monday was the one normal day of packing and laundry and getting everything organized. And then first thing Tuesday I was off on a solo trip to Minnesota. On Thursday I drove down to La Crosse and met up with Greg and the boys for two nights of family vacation. Overall, I had a lot of fun, did a lot of shopping, looked at a lot of books, and ate a ton of delicious food. But there were also a ton of internet related frustrations in Minnesota and bug related stress in La Crosse. A trip can never just be perfect, right?

I started my journey with a stop at Great Harvest Bread Co. in the Dells. I’ve never been there before and was hoping to find some kind of bread to have on hand for the rest of the week in case the hotel breakfasts were disappointing (and they were). They didn’t really have much bread, but the entire store was filled with bags of these mocha chocolate chip biscotti, so I picked one up. They were delicious!

I planned on eating lunch in Eau Claire, but got to town too early. I drove around, expecting there’d be a shopping area off the main highway I could just hang out at for a little while, but I didn’t have any luck. I eventually found my way to a Festival grocery store so I could go to the bathroom. I made it to Milwaukee Burger Co. right when it opened. Their menu looked fantastic and I chose just a simple fried chicken, pickle, and special sauce sandwich with a side of their enormous cheese curds. Very tasty, but very filling.

My next stop was at Bibelot in St. Paul. It’s a really fun gift type store that I always enjoyed going to when I lived there. I also grabbed a cold brew from Starbucks because I was already dragging and my day had hardly begun!

My main reason for picking Minnesota as a vacation destination was to see my favorite author, Colleen Hoover, at a book signing in Edina. I’ve never been to a book signing and when I realized there was one within driving distance it seemed like the perfect reason to plan a solo vacation. Anyway, it became really annoying when I realized to actually get a seat at the signing and guarantee of her actually signing my book, I had to purchase a book AT their location. They had 100 wristbands that they gave out between when the latest book came out (July 17) and the signing (August 7). 100 isn’t very many for a very popular author in a huge metropolitan area! So I ordered a book to be picked up that day, and then called to ask about the wristband. He told me that because I asked, and he still had 5 or 6 left, he’d put a wristband in my book. And then he realized they only have a 5 day hold and I ordered the book 6 days early. So I had to order a second book (technically a third because I already owned one from amazon to read on release day) the next day and just hoped I’d have a wristband when I got there. I noticed on the book signing schedule that all the other cities simply had you purchase tickets for the signing online. That would have been SO much easier for me!! And much less stressful.

Anyway! I drove over to the Barnes and Noble as soon as I could get there to see if I had a wristband waiting for me. I got lucky because the wristband was still there in the first book I ordered, despite it being expired. They made a big to do about it and decided I could still have the wristband, even though it wasn’t with the book that was still in the system… It wouldn’t have been the end of the world not to have the wristband. I still could have stood in the back and I probably still could have had my book signed. But after revolving a whole vacation around this thing, I really wanted to be able to sit down and enjoy it!

I went back to check into my hotel next and spent awhile just reading and relaxing. I put on a nice outfit, did my hair, and headed back to Barnes and Noble about an hour and a half before the signing started. Apparently this is one of five new concept stores in the country, and the setup was a lot more unique than any other BN I’ve been to. I was really excited to spend some time browsing the shelves. But everyone was already there and sitting! I forgot to bring my kindle with me, I wasn’t particularly interested in re-reading this newest book (it was great – just not her typical tingly delicious romance type book), and my internet wasn’t working at all on my phone. Eventually I decided to risk it and left my stuff on a chair so I could walk around a bit. πŸ™‚ You can’t stick me in an awesome bookstore and not let me browse!

I guess because most people were just getting this book that day, Colleen didn’t do any readings or want to answer questions about it. But she did spend about an hour taking any other questions that people had. So many of the questions had to do with her writing process and where she gets ideas. It was so interesting! I really enjoyed the entire thing. And at the end, we went row by row to get our books signed. I watched everyone before me gushing to her about how great her books are and when I got to the front of the line I had no idea what to say! I was probably her fastest sign because I felt so tongue tied and dumb! Oh well. It was a really great experience and I hope to go to more book signings in my future!

It was pretty late, but I was getting hungry after not eating since 11 in Eau Claire. My plan was to go to Cheesecake Factory and just pick up a slice for the hotel, but then I decided I’d rather get real food instead. So I walked into this Rojo Mexican Grill and had my food about five minutes after I sat down! A huge basket of chips and salsa and three chicken tacos. I’m not normally a huge rice fan, but whatever they did to this rice was also amazing. Since I was parked right in front of it (thanks, handicap parking pass), I still got a slice of chocolate cherry cheesecake to bring back to the hotel and eat over the next few days.

I finished my night back at the hotel with a bit of a pampering spa hour. I had brought a bunch of bath bombs and oils and sheet masks. I was really too exhausted to fully enjoy it, but it was still worth doing. Overall, my first day of vacation was awesome!

Wednesday is much less exciting to write about. I checked out the hotel breakfast that just consisted in individually boxed cereals and plain bagels and went back to my room to read for awhile. I had a fully researched plan in place to start at Ikea and Mall of America and then work my way through all my favorite stores in the other cities. But on my way back to the hotel Tuesday night I saw there was a Container Store in the opposite direction. I’ve never been to one and always wanted to, so I switched up my whole itinerary. Of course in doing so, I really needed to do a bit more research, and the wifi in the hotel didn’t work at all, and my phone was roaming the entire time so almost nothing was working. I wasted a ridiculous amount of time in those 48 hours just trying to get something to load. Things that should have taken ten seconds took half an hour. Yes, I could have just used the time to unplug and made the day a true adventure. But I didn’t want to miss anything! And I wanted to make sure I had the best restaurant plan for the day. It was infuriating how hard it was to find answers or options EVERY SINGLE TIME I tried to search something out. My gps even stopped working half the time. I was trying to just go with the flow and not let it bother me. But…it bothered me. A lot.

Anyway, Wednesday was my shopping day. I went to Trader Joe’s, World Market, Marshall’s, The Container Store, and Whole Foods in Edina. I love unique grocery stores. And I love discount stores. And I love containers. My biggest mistake on this trip was not bringing along a cooler and some ice packs. So many things I wanted to buy at the first few stores I went to were meltable, so I had to pass. πŸ™

I had lunch at Naf Naf Grill in Eagan. There were so many great choices all right in a row! I contemplated Punch Pizza because that was our all time favorite MN pizza chain (though there wasn’t one in Eagan when we lived there!). There was also a taco place called RTacos that looked tasty. But I was trying to get myself a wide variety of foods, so I went Mediterranean. My pita was good, but SO spicy. Too spicy. And I LOVE spicy food.

Next I went to Marshall’s and Home Goods and then temporarily got lost. Eagan has changed a lot in the 10 years since we lived there! And my gps stopped working. But I eventually found my way back to the part of town I recognized and drove past the Panera where I worked for the first year we lived there. Then I went into that Barnes and Noble to browse books some more. And of course got a frappuccino. To try and wake up, but also to try and combat the fire still raging in my mouth.

I finished up my shopping at my favorite TJMaxx in Burnsville, where I used to shop all the time (before apparently every city in MN got their own discount stores!). I also stopped in at Abdallah Candies, but I just wasn’t in the mood to buy anything else sweet after my coffees and cheesecake. After that I was totally exhausted and needed a break so I went back to the hotel to read and take a nap.

The rest of my night was kind of crappy. I kept thinking about still going to Ikea and MoA, but my ankle was killing me and I knew there weren’t really any stores I was dying to go to in the mall. I like Ikea as an experience, but it has so many steps and I still suck at going down stairs because my ankle won’t bend enough. Originally there was a restaurant that looked really good at the mall, but since I had fancy tacos the night before it really wasn’t such a priority to get that kind of meal again. I was trying to think really hard about what kind of things I’d find most memorable and of course the answer was BOOKS. On other trips the answer probably would have been to find some cool outdoor things to visit. But between the extremely hot temperatures and my stupid ankle, I just wasn’t up for that kind of adventuring on that leg of the trip.

Anyway, I ended up going to a really cool used bookstore called The Paperback Exchange. I wish I had come across it in my research ahead of time, because if you brought in any paperback to exchange, you would only have to pay 25% of the cover price on any book in the store. Without an exchange, it was 50%. Which was still a pretty great deal because they had SO MANY books, and thousands of them were in almost perfect condition. I had a lot of fun browsing the floor to ceiling shelving and came out with four new books that I actually knew about before and really wanted to read.

After that the night was pretty awful. I couldn’t make up my mind on where to eat. My problem on vacations is that I want every meal to be this perfect experience filled with types of food I could never find at home. I want every meal to be memorable and delight my senses. And sometimes that’s just a lot of pressure to put on food. I couldn’t decide on a restaurant, so instead I headed to another bookstore. But there was so much construction, closed roads, heavy traffic, and NO places to park. I just wasn’t up for walking blocks and blocks to get anywhere, so I gave up on the bookstore and headed to another restaurant choice. Came across more roadblocks and lack of parking. Finally went back to the hotel to regroup and see if there was something I could order in. Decided on something, only to see you needed to download an app in order to place an order and gave up. It was getting so late, but I didn’t want to skip eating entirely. But the internet wasn’t working, I didn’t know what to do, and I was getting so stressed out.

I finally made a choice on a place that was supposedly just 1.2 miles away from the hotel. Except when I got in my car the gps then said 3.6 miles. Which was a good fifteen minute drive. When I finally got there, through more construction and closed roads, I couldn’t get to the restaurant because it was in the middle of a construction site and all the doors were barricaded, even though the open sign was on. It was so confusing and frustrating that I left and just got Popeye’s on my drive back to the hotel. Except even that was a fail because all the food was cold and limp and I didn’t even eat it. SUCH a waste of a night. I should have just walked to the Walmart next to the hotel and gotten some cheese and bread or something. I was so mad at myself for wasting sooooo many hours of that super rare solo vacation on things that didn’t even work out. Oh, and then the final straw – I figured I would end the night finding something to watch on tv while eating popcorn that I had brought. BUT you needed a code to get the tv to work, which was not provided. Stupid! I just went to bed after that.

Needless to say, I was not in the mood to linger on Thursday morning. I didn’t even look at the hotel breakfast. Just packed up and stopped at a bakery I had driven by the morning before. They had so many tasty options! I got a French donut and a cherry fritter, and two bags of salty crunchy cheese breadsticks and a loaf of cinnamon bread to share with the family.

On my way out of the area, I drove by our old house in Farmington. It looked pretty much the same, except they changed the shutters to white. I liked the black ones I painted myself so much better. I was also really happy to see that the flowers, lilac bushes, and tree I planted on my first Mother’s Day were all still alive and well. I can’t believe how much that tree has grown in nine years!

As I headed south, I came to the conclusion that memory lane vacations are not much fun. I really enjoyed our four years living in Minnesota and have a lot of great memories there. But I’ve never regretted our decision to move back to Wisconsin. Driving around on this trip, though, kind of made me feel wistful and sad for the path we did not choose. Maybe because that blog post I wrote on Monday was still fresh on my mind – regret over not staying the college course. I definitely enjoyed seeing Colleen Hoover and I always like being by myself and shopping at all my favorite stores. But I also just felt really kind of sad the entire time. I also felt ANGRY at all the traffic and lack of parking options and poor internet, so yeah. I was ready to get out of there.

I’ll spare you all the other frustrating driving related problems I had that morning and just tell you that I finally got to La Crosse around noon and stopped at the coffee shop I had picked out ahead of time. I wanted some meal food since I didn’t know our plan for the rest of the day, but also didn’t want a ton of food, so I got a mini BLT. And even though I wasn’t really in the mood for it, the whole reason I picked Cabin Coffee Co. was for their huge frappe menu, so I couldn’t leave without getting one. This was the Mississippi Mud frappe. It was good, just a ton bigger than I expected it to be.

After that, I met up with my family! It was still too early to check into the hotel, so they decided to go to the Holmen Aquatic Center, a little north of Onalaska. It was really hot again, so we all had a good time swimming. But then some kid pooped in the pool and we were all kicked out. The boys were really antsy to just get to the hotel. We checked in about as early as we could and immediately went swimming there since we all still had our suits on.

For dinner we went to Buzzard Billy’s. It was the one restaurant I researched that I didn’t want to miss. Unfortunately, we had an extremely long wait on the food and Shepard was SO cranky about it, kind of ruining the experience. But it was delicious once it came!

We ended the night at Grandad Bluff. So pretty!

We were so color coordinated, without even trying!

I spent most of the time watching these people that kept walking around, laying and relaying blankets down, standing backwards, and cuddling right at the edge of the cliff.

Anyway, it was a good evening. We went back to the hotel and got the boys to bed and then we watched an episode of Better Call Saul on Greg’s laptop, with one earbud in each. The joys of hotel life with such different sleep schedules!

Friday morning is when things got tough. Long story short, while I was with the boys getting breakfast, Greg woke up to a bug biting him. It was a bedbug. He took photos and immediately went to the front desk and talked to the manager. They handled the entire thing like it was a national emergency. They wanted us to leave so they could inspect every inch of the room. While we were gone they must have found more because they moved us to a different room, gave us the hotel stay for free, AND insisted that we go on a shopping spree to replace all of the clothes and luggage we had with us, in case it was contaminated. They also told Greg if we ever want to come again to let them know we’d get another night free. They handled everything in about the best possible way, which is why I’m not going to out them to the world as a bedbug hotel. These things happen, and everything else about our stay both this time and a few years ago was fantastic. The bad thing, though…we were still exposed to bedbugs. And spent every single minute of the rest of the vacation worrying about that. And still worrying about it now.

Anyway, when we first left the hotel that morning, we didn’t have much of a plan other than to check out some river viewing spots before it got too hot. We went over into Minnesota and walked around, drove to a higher viewing point, and stopped to watch the lock and dam. The guys were mostly looking for new Pokemon.

We ate lunch at a place called Burger Fusion where you can design your own burgers from a huge list of possibilities. I don’t eat hamburgers, but chicken sandwiches were also an option.

After lunch we went to The Pearl ice cream shop where the boys split a cookie dough ice cream and I got a toasted marshmallow latte.

We went back to the hotel after that and went through the process of going through all of our items and then moving them to the new room. Greg and the boys went swimming while I figured out what the heck to do with all of our clothes. I had all of my best clothes with me. Almost all of which had to be ordered online because I can never find anything in stores that fit properly. I had three of my brand new Third Love bras with me and those are not cheap!! I also had my only three pairs of shorts, six brand new and awesome shirts, my favorite dress, and my only swimming suit and cover up. I couldn’t just ditch them all on the very tiny possibility they were contaminated. Yes, the bedbugs did exist in our room. But Greg is the only one who got bit. They couldn’t have been horrible. And all of our clothes were clear on the other side of the room from where our bed was. It just seemed so unlikely that after all the proper precautions, including extremely careful inspection and heat treatment, my clothes still needed to just get thrown away. Trust me, it has caused MANY arguments in the last three days, but I kept my things. All of Greg and the boys’ clothes they had with them – gone. My suitcase and their duffel bag too. And all the tote bags we had our food and electronics in. It sucked.

After swimming we headed over to Kohls with a long list of everything that needed replacing. Full blown shopping for every article of clothing for three people, plus a few extra things, is exhausting. Greg didn’t even know what size he wore in anything, but because all of his clothes are from Kohls anyway, we were able to find a lot of exact replacements. The boys were a lot harder because most of their summer clothes were either no longer in stock or hidden among clearance racks. Shepard definitely had opinions on what we picked out for him, but Caden started crying every time we asked him which color or style he liked better. Shopping to him is like the ULTIMATE worst thing in the entire world. I got new pajamas, the only thing I agreed to leave behind, even though they were my favorite. πŸ™ And I also got to pick out a new carry on bag, which I guess is the silver lining because my other one was pretty old. We managed to get all of that done in about an hour. I felt bad it was over $500, but that was even without replacing my things! The hotel reimbursed us without a bit of hesitation, though.

We headed to the farmer’s market next, which is the one thing in La Crosse I really wanted to do. It was still so hot, though, and crowded, and the rest of my family had no interest in being there. I bought a kohlrabi, the boys each had a glass of fresh pressed apple cider, and I had a glass of delicious sweet mint iced tea. I was so sore at that point, and stressed out. We needed to think of something else to do, but I was just done. Cranky and tired and overwhelmed by everything. I wasn’t super hungry, but we still needed to eat, so we finally decided to just go where everyone wanted to go – even if it’s the same food we could buy at home. Shepard picked Culver’s. Chicken tenders for literally the eighth meal in a row.

Caden wanted a “sub” (turkey and mustard) and chips. Greg and I ended at Burracho’s because it was across the street from the hotel and I didn’t want to drive back into La Crosse for something more unique.

We ended Friday night with more swimming. I enjoyed more hot tub time. It was a long day! Honestly, the boys were great. The whole bedbug ordeal, though. Not fun.

On Saturday morning I took the boys down to the pool while Greg packed everything up. They love the pool and hot tub there so much!

Their favorite part is the indoor/outdoor aspect of the pool. They were just having the greatest time in the world swimming between the barrier and alternating between the pool and the hot tub. It made me realize if we just have very low expectations and actually listen to what THEY want to do, family vacations can be really fun. It’s been so long since we’ve been on one just the four of us. Probably about three years! They were always so disastrous in the past that we switched to just Greg and I going on mini trips, or me going by myself because I’m the one who loves traveling the most. But this was fun! And it was good for us.

We parted ways around ten on Saturday. Greg and the boys went back home to do some Pokemon hunting and pick up Annie. I had to check out the La Crosse TJMaxx (after my two day detox), a gift shop I always like seeing in town, and the craft mall in the Dells. I got back home mid afternoon and snuggled with my pup!

And that was our trip! Overall, a success. If the bedbug incident hadn’t happened, it would have been great. Alas, Greg is still mad at me for keeping my clothes and annoyed that I refused to let them sit in bags in the sun for two weeks (because I had a WET swimsuit in one of the bags, plus ALL OF MY SHORTS AND BRAS). It was pretty dang hot when they sat out yesterday, plus I washed and dried them on heavy duty loads on the hottest settings today. I think they’re fine. And if they turn out not to be, I will take full responsibility on de-infesting our house. πŸ˜›

So, no Sunday Intention post this week. I’m still so tired. Trying to get caught up after being gone a week. Trying to prepare for babysitting Hudson for three days when no part of our house is baby proofed and he is very much on the move! Trying to figure out when the in the world I can get back to work in the next few weeks. And feeling both sad that summer is coming to an end and our calendar is filled with so many things, yet still not enough of the fun things I had wanted to do. And feeling excited that FALL IS COMING and my life will finally get back to normal. It’s a confusing time, the middle of August. πŸ™‚ But we power on!

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 08.05.2018

As you can see, I’m already completely failing at my daily writing goal. I promised that on August 1st and haven’t written since. Though in my defense, I have barely been home the last four days, and when I have been home, the internet wasn’t working! When I’m home and the internet IS working, I’ve been being plagued by pretty frequent headaches that leave me not wanting to do a single dang thing. But I’m powering through and WILL write today because a lot happened in this past week that is worth recording!

On Sunday, Dianne and I managed to fit in a little time together before I dropped her off at the airport. We talk every day, but it sure is nice when we can see each other in person! I was supposed to visit her last April, but had to postpone because of my broken ankle. But bearing any other accidents, I am booked to go again in October!

We ate at Bel Air Cantina in Madison. Greg and I went there last year, I think around my birthday. The food was great, but it was so crowded with college students we couldn’t hear each other talk. But a Sunday in the middle of a summer afternoon was perfect timing! They have some delicious taco combinations. I picked a salsa verde chicken taco, Korean beef, and Ninja pig, which was like pork with hoisin sauce and slaw. So tasty.

After I dropped Dianne at the airport I did my grocery shopping while I was in the area and without kids! I spent the rest of the night working, desperately trying to make major progress.

Monday another headache hit me. They seem to be happening so often lately. Dehydration? Not enough sleep? I’m actually getting more sleep than I get during the school year, but I’m also rarely getting my daily nap. Whatever the reasoning behind it, it sucks. And I take enough ibuprofen for ankle related pain that I try really hard not to take any extras for things like headaches. Sometimes, like today, I just need to give in.

On Monday night, I had another dinner date with some of my craft night ladies. We tried out a restaurant in Lake Mills called El Mariachi. I was shocked at how busy it was for a tiny town later on a Monday night, but I guess that’s a testament to how good it is!

I had taquitos on a bed of salsa verde topped with regular taco toppings. Maybe not much to look at, but it was really delicious! And fun to have a night out with friends. They’re SO hard to organize that I’ve mostly given up in the last year. But it’s worth it when it does work out.

In the meantime, Greg and the boys were at my parents’ house having dinner with them and my brothers and Hudson. I would have gone, but it was planned after my friend dinner and I didn’t want to back out.

On Tuesday I was bound and determined to get my dolls done. But I also wanted to make sure I had some quality time with the boys. We went on a longer walk along the cemetery in the morning. After lunch we walked to Sharrow’s, a coffee/ice cream/gift shop just a few blocks away that I always forget to go to. The boys had ice cream and I had coffee. It was a fun break in the day. I even found a delightful bonfire scented candle to carry me through August before I can start burning apple and cinnamon scents in September!

On Wednesday morning we went school supply shopping. Wisconsin had five days of tax free school supplies, clothes, etc. This is normally when we’d go anyway, so it seemed like good timing. Everything gets so picked over into August anyway. It was crazy as usual, but we got everything we needed.

I had big plans to FINALLY research vacation things in the afternoon, BUT the internet was down! No reason why, just hours without it working. It magically came back on later in the day, so I spent the whole night planning out my Minnesota trip in a few days. It was so much fun puzzling together everywhere I wanted to go and eat for the perfect itinerary.

It was kind of a spur of the moment decision, but on Thursday I ended up taking the boys to the State Fair. We fully intended on going on Monday with my parents, but I kept looking at the weather and Thursday’s forecast looked SO much better. If it ended up being too hot or stormy on Monday we wouldn’t have gone anyway, so it made more sense just to head over on Thursday. Plus Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson were going to be there that day, so we got to have a few hours with them which the boys were super pumped about.

We spent the first hour just sitting in this spot waiting for them, which in hindsight was a pretty bad idea. I didn’t want to get too far ahead of them in looking at stuff, but the idleness was pushing Shepard into a pretty cranky mood that lasted the entire day. I should have learned from last year when the fair was also off to a bad start because we spent way too much time trying to meet up with everyone. Though that was hard because everyone kept moving! Which is why we decided to stay put this year. At any rate, it was fine once we found each other!

We went to the WI Products building for our yearly bag of apple cider donuts. As usual Hudson has no idea who I am or why I’m taking a picture with him!

Shepard and I had grilled cheeses for our late morning breakfast. That’s all he ended up eating for the day. He was so cranky because he wanted me to buy him a Pikachu stuffed animal at one of their crappy toy booths and I refused because he doesn’t play with ANY toys, least of all stuffed animals! Plus Annie would have taken it and destroyed it in five seconds. Later he was throwing a fit because he wanted to go on the trampolines. And the last few hours he wouldn’t stop whining and crying because he wanted an expandable ball. He didn’t think he could live without any of those things.

Checking out the hot tubs! Hudson likes this one.

Normally the building with all the little booths is one of my favorite parts, but I knew it would just make Shepard want sooooo many more things. So we cut down the middle, which just happened to be the perfect spot because we got to try dip samples at like five different booths! Then we ended at the beef sticks. These were my favorite thing to get growing up and they’re Caden’s favorite now. I’ve never seen this Vienna beef stick in a store, though I did just figure out where to buy them online! Might be a birthday present this year. I’ll buy it the week between Caden’s and my birthday. πŸ™‚

I let them do the trampolines. They did outdoor jumping last year, so I guess this needs to be an annual thing.

We stopped in a little park area for awhile so Hudson could move around. He loved it!

One of the new fair foods Caden really wanted to try was flamin’ hot corn on the cob. I thought I did a very good job describing it to him ahead of time so he knew what he was getting into, but he didn’t even want to touch it when I put it in front of him. He eventually took a tiny bite, spit it all over the table, and cried for awhile. I spent $5 on it, so I took a bite – gross. Timmy reluctantly finished it off.

Trying to get Hudson to settle down for a nap because he was up early.

The new food I wanted to try were WI Hot Chicken Bombs. It was a combination of mashed potatoes, fried chicken, and corn rolled into a ball and deep fried. Then it was injected with gravy and coated with Nashville hot sauce. Unfortunately, I was not really a fan. I mostly ate one and gave the other to Timmy (he took over my dad’s job of eating everyone’s leftover food this year). I’m kind of bummed that this is the second or third year in a row of not finding any super delicious things to eat. I had other things on my list, but by the time I got this I was just tired of spending so much money on junky food and just plain wasn’t in the mood to hunt anything else out. Next year…

Normally we do animal buildings first, but it was our last stop this year. We all loved this super sweet and gentle goat that LOVED getting his face and neck scratched!

Around noon I hit 10,000 steps and my ankle was DONE. Four straight hours of walking was quite the accomplishment. Despite the cool weather forecast, it was also pretty hot in the blasting sun and crowds. I think it was a successful trip overall, though. Shepard was difficult, but he could have been worse. Caden was FANTASTIC. How often can I say that?! And it was fun to spend the morning with Hudson.

Fortunately, I was able to fit in an afternoon nap because I had more plans Thursday night. I went to see the Rachel Hollis documentaryΒ Made for More. It was playing as a special event movie in theaters all around the country. It was really great! Very motivational and empowering for women to watch. They added an additional showing on August 13th, and I highly recommend seeing it! Or at the very least, reading her book!!

I planned to spend Friday morning packing for the weekend, baking a bunch of things, and doing more research for our LaCrosse vacation. BUT the internet was down again. Greg was still home so he called Charter and it took the entire morning to fix. And because our modem and router are in the kitchen, I couldn’t do my internet stuff OR my kitchen stuff. It was obviously nobody’s fault, but it was a very stressful and frustrating half a day of not doing anything I planned on doing. I hate when that happens.

On Friday evening, we headed to Hayes Resort in Fox Lake, where Greg’s parents rented a cottage for the weekend.

The boys were a little anxious and not fans of the concept of RELAXATION, but it was a pretty perfect night of sitting out by the lake. Not too hot, very few bugs, and a nice peaceful breeze.

The property definitely could have used some upgrades. For example, this was “the beach.” Kind of hilarious. But it didn’t stop the kids from loving a big pile of sand either!

I had some problems walking around because the entire resort is on a steep hill. My ankle does not like hills! I was pretty sore Friday night, but I wore my brace on Saturday and it was a lot better. I just kept having visions of myself falling and re-hurting myself all over again, so I had to walk at a snail’s pace.

We had tacos for dinner and ate at a picnic table next to the cottage. Then Steve and Shepard built a fire next to the water and we had s’mores for dessert. It was really nice!

Despite how gross the water looked, they realllly wanted to go in. It’s always so funny when they wade into water and hold their shorts up.

I stayed until about 7:45 and then went home to be with Annie. I was hoping to just chillax having the house to myself – which NEVER EVER happens at night. But I ended up cleaning the bathroom, doing a bunch of dishes, sweeping all the floors, make peanut butter fudge, and then finally settled in to have a snack, read, do a sheet mask, and go to sleep about 10:45.

I was hoping to sleep in a bit, but that never happens. I did, however, lounge in bed and read for an hour which was great! Then I was running around trying to make scones and get everything prepped to head back to the cottage.

I dropped Annie off at my mom’s for the day so she could have some fun and then joined everyone. Greg’s aunt and uncle and cousin and her family were there too. Sometime overnight they managed to find a boat they could use. The boys loved it, but it was a lot of work for Greg!

It was a pretty hot day, but also very windy which balanced everything out – a bit. All the kids had a blast running around and playing. The adults had a little more chance to relax! We had a big lunch of brats and hot dogs, which the guys expertly cooked over the fire, corn on the cob, fruit and veggies, chips, and a variety of desserts.

Shepard and Trevor were kind of off in their own worlds, but Caden and Melody were having so much fun playing together! Caden is always so good with younger kids and babies.

Sitting on the docks while Shepard “fished,” Caden swam, and Melody kept running back and forth between them. It was making me too nervous so I didn’t stay long. πŸ™‚

No qualms about the green water after he got in the first time. Ick.

It was a really nice day! I’m wildly impressed with how organized Steve and Cindy were with so many full meals all prepped and ready, plus all the towels and toys and chairs and accessories. I’m sure it was super exhausting, but they never let it show! We all had a really good time. Greg and I went back home for the night, but the boys stayed with them last night too.

That’s it for the week! It was packed! But really fun too. The way summer is supposed to be, right?!

Sunday Intentions

This week I just intend to have more fun! Tomorrow is our only normal day of the week with Greg at work and me madly trying to make sure everything is ready to go. Because early Tuesday morning I’m heading out on my solo Minnesota vacation! I revolved the trip around going to a Colleen Hoover signing/presentation. But I’m planning on checking in at all my favorite stores, eating a lot of delicious food, driving by our old house and apartment, possibly stopping in at Panera to see if anyone I know still works there 10 years later, and basically just enjoying 2.5 days of being entirely by myself! It will be AMAZING.

On Thursday I’m driving back and meeting up with Greg and the boys in LaCrosse for two more nights of family vacation. I have yet to plan that one out, other than noting a few restaurants that looked good. So that’s on the agenda for this afternoon. There’s A LOT on today’s agenda and I still have this terrible headache. We’ll see how much gets done!

Have a good week!

Flying Solo in Door County

IMG_20170914_100019_696 my favorite rocks

Last night I got back from my three day solo trip to Door County. There was no purpose to this trip, other than that I really wanted a break from real life. It was the ultimate form of self care and something I desperately needed. I’m SO thankful I was able to go and enjoy myself for three full days without any responsibility to anyone other than myself. It was amazing.

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I left around 6am on Wednesday morning. Late enough that I could say a quick goodbye to everyone, but early enough that I didn’t have to pack lunches or make breakfasts. I got to see an amazing sunrise on the drive up. I tried to take a picture, but phone photos (while driving!) do NOT do gigantic red sun photos justice. I made my first stop in Sturgeon Bay. It was a bit too early for the stores I wanted to go to, so I wandered around Target to pass the time. Then I walked through the downtown area and checked out their shops. I had lunch at The Bluefront Cafe. It was a turkey, brie, arugula, and cherry jam grilled sandwich – delish!

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I worked my way up the peninsula, stopping at all the stores that looked interesting. Mostly the farm markets because finding unique locally made food goodies is my absolute favorite thing on any trip I take. Plus all the samples are always just the best. I stopped at Lautenbach Orchards and had a wine tasting. Picked up two bottles of their Summer Breeze wine – it was so tasty!

While I enjoyed stopping in at so many stores, I also had a terrible headache and was really looking forward to getting to the hotel. I checked in at Church Hill Inn right at 3:00 and was put in The Lighthouse Room. It was such a nice room! I rested for about an hour and then decided I’d rather go back out and check out a few more shops before they all shut down at 5:00. Before I left, I had some of the hotel’s afternoon appetizers – cheese, sausage, crackers, and spinach artichoke dip.

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I had dinner at Grasse’s Grill in Sister Bay. The entire reason I wanted to go there was for their sweet potato fries with curry dip. Except the lady apparently didn’t hear me say the “sweet potato” part when I requested the fry side. I always feel awkward enough eating at sit down restaurants by myself, so I decided not to make a deal out of it. The cherry chicken salad wrap I ordered was delicious, though! The best chicken salad I’ve ever had. I also ordered cherry soda, just to stay with the cherry theme. It wasn’t that great (no surprise).

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After dinner, I settled back in at the hotel for a full night of reading. I brought a lot of books along, but really just read fiction that night. Flipped through some of my new cookbooks. It was relaxing and wonderful.

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Despite being there alone, I still woke up at 4am. I guess that’s just my normal wake up time. I did stay in bed for quite awhile reading. The hotel’s breakfast starts at 8am, so I was down there right when it opened, along with every single other person in the hotel. Breakfast was my one complaint about Church Hill Inn. They’re known for their great breakfasts. And the food was definitely good. But it’s very awkward how they insist on seating you, serving you drinks, and requesting a tip, for a buffet style meal. Both mornings they did not seem very pleased to sit a single person at a table when couples and groups were waiting behind me. Anyway, Thursday’s breakfast was potato pancakes with applesauce, scones with whipped cream, English sausages, and fruit. It was all really good! Despite the raisins, it was the best scone I’ve ever had.

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Since it was still too early for most shops, I decided to start the day driving to Cave Point County Party. I stopped at Door County Bakery on the way, at my mom’s recommendation, to get their Corsica bread. I also had to get a French Cruller because they’re my favorite kind of donut. Plus it was only $1. The chocolate croissants also looked amazing, but those were $6.

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I’m SO glad I went here first thing. I was one of the only people there (with many groups of people filing in when I was leaving), it wasn’t very hot yet (the weather got so unusually hot all three days), and it was simply way more fun than shopping. And I love shopping.

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It must have taken people a lot of effort to make all these rock stacks, but they looked so cool! Totally worth the effort. I wasn’t expecting to see them, either, so it was a really awesome surprise. I liked these particular stacks because the top rocks look like birds.

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The rocky shores were starting to get crowded, but I didn’t want to leave yet, so I walked the contemplation trail. I figured it would be a loop, but it instead just ran into trails made by the state park nearby. It was very confusing.

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There weren’t many fall colors yet, but every once in awhile I’d spot a tree in full glorious shades of red. It’d be fun to come again a few weeks later another year when it’s all in full color display.

IMG_20170914_144221_018 corsica sticks

After the park, I drove around until I found some more stores to check in at. I also ate one of my Corsica sticks from the bakery. They were SO good. It’s like French breadsticks infused with a massive amount of olive oil.

IMG_20170914_112538_807 cherry juice

I was all about the cherry culture while I was there. πŸ™‚ Cherry jam in my sandwich, cherries in my chicken salad, cherry fudge at two different farm markets, cherry juice, cherry soda, cherry infused wine. Yum yum.

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I wasn’t super hungry for lunch, but wanted a little something else, so stopped at Not Licked Yet to get my favorite chunky monkey sundae. I didn’t like it as much as I have in the past, but still a nice treat.

Around this point I got really tired and went back to the hotel for a nap and reading time. I enjoyed the appetizers again – homemade chips, veggies, and dip.

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My original plan for the night was to just stay in with my piles of books. But I had so much fun at the park in the morning that I decided to check out a few more of the county parks. If I go back again someday I’ll buy a pass to go to the state parks, but this time I was all about the free parks. Despite all the times I’ve gone there as a kid, I don’t feel like I’ve ever been to any of the county parks. This one was Ellison Bluff scenic lookout.

20170914_173139 rocky shores

I ended at Door Bluff County Park, thinking I’d stick around for sunset. I was not expecting to get there and see there weren’t even any trails to walk on. I had to climb down a huge hill of rocks and tree roots. I was sure I’d either fall to my death, get injured and have nobody around to save me, or be attacked by the one group of men I saw while I was walking through the woods. Fortunately, none of that happened. It was quite a workout, though!

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It was another really pretty shoreline, but there was no way I was sticking around until sunset. I could barely find my way back up the mountain in the light. I never would have made it in the dark!

IMG_20170914_184030_748 pizza

My original plan was to get a pizza to take back to the hotel, but then I figured it was easier to just eat in. I went to Wild Tomato and ordered a small pepperoni pizza. It was HUGE. There’s no way any one person can eat that whole pizza. They only had room to seat me at this barstool area where all the waiters filled their drink orders. I felt super awkward and the pizza was really messy. As much as I like doing things alone, eating at restaurants is not one of them. I was very uncomfortable. But the pizza was fantastic!

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One more quick stroll along the marina before going back to the hotel. It definitely wasn’t as productive as the night before. I spent a whole lot of time playing Toy Blaster on my phone. Then tried to watch a movie that needed to buffer every five minutes. I finally gave up and went to bed way later than I usually do.

IMG_20170915_081507 lame breakfast

Friday’s breakfast was not very impressive! Well, it was a lot of eggy things. Like an egg frittata with a side of scrambled eggs. Why?? They also had cinnamon buttermilk pancakes. Except when I got to them there were only two left and one person in line behind me, with nobody around to immediately refill them. So it seemed rude to take the last two, even though I didn’t want anything else. I don’t normally like pancakes, but it was pretty good. The waitress was not very happy that she had to sit me at a table for four again. I ate as quickly as I could and booked it out of there.

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I didn’t want to stick around until shops opened at 10, so I headed out with a final stop at Cana Island Lighthouse.

20170915_090610 the island lighthouse

I’m not really sure why, but the road to the island should have looked like this, but it was totally flooded with water. So a trip to the lighthouse was not going to happen! But I enjoyed walking around the beaches for awhile.

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This was my final stop in the peninsula. Then I said goodbye to Door County and drove down to Green Bay. I went to a couple of stores that my mom recommended.

IMG_20170915_124705_926 chipotle

Had lunch at Chipotle because I wanted to try their new queso. I wasn’t very impressed. I love their hot salsa SO much, so the queso would have had to be pretty amazing for me to give up having salsa when I go there!

I didn’t want to get home too early, giving up part of this day to myself. But I was also really tired and headachy again. I made a halfhearted attempt to go through a bunch more regular type stores in Appleton and Oshkosh. For dinner I had a Starbucks frappucino.

IMG_20170915_175205_489 sweet annie

I got home around 5:30. Annie acted like she hadn’t seen me in months! It was pretty sweet. Shepard was also jumping around and excited to see me. It was a nice welcome home.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip! I hope I can make it an annual thing. Despite the fact I still came back tired and achy, it was rejuvenating for my soul. Exactly what I needed.

New Jersey Vacation, Week of Craziness, and Baby Hudson

WHEW. These last 12 days have been a whirlwind of craziness. We’ve been so busy! It’s been fun, we’ve spent time with a lot of different people, and we’re exhausted. πŸ™‚ I have lots to report on! I decided to combine everything that’s happened into just one blog post, but I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible.

Tuesday, June 27th

Tuesday was a day of packing and organizing for me. But it signified the start of vacation because Greg and his dad, Steve, left in a van to drive to New Jersey. They were bringing out a large piece of furniture and decided to make a little road trip out of it. They took all of our luggage, so I had to be fully packed by Tuesday afternoon, even though we weren’t leaving for another 24 hours.

Wednesday, June 28th

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The boys had their last day of summer school. I thought they’d be upset about missing the real last day on Thursday, but I don’t think they cared at all. In the afternoon we got picked up by Cindy (Greg’s mom) and drove to the Milwaukee airport. Traffic was a pain and it was pouring rain, which didn’t help! But we made it with plenty of time to spare.

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We ordered them new, smaller backpacks to be more manageable. The boys waited on the porch for the mail lady and they were delivered at 2:50. We left at 3:00. Close call! They didn’t have any anxiety about flying this time around. Old pros!

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We went on a couple walks around the airport and had Auntie Anne’s pretzels for dinner. On the plane, Shepard and Cindy sat together and Caden sat by me. It was a smooth and uneventful flight! We arrived in New Jersey at about 9:45 and were picked up by Greg and his Uncle Mike.

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We arrived at Uncle Mike and Aunt Zab’s house around midnight. The boys wanted to jump right in the pool! Fortunately, we were able to get them settled into bed pretty quickly because we had an early morning planned.

Thursday, June 29th

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Thursday was Uncle Mike’s 60th birthday. Kind of the reason why we were visiting. Also because we (the three/four of us) haven’t been out there since Caden was eight months old.

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The boys were quick to check out the pool while everyone was getting ready for the day at the beach. Caden halfway “fell in” multiple times.

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We drove to Long Beach Island, where Mike and Zab have friends with a house on the beach. They let us park there, use their bathroom, and use their beach passes. The boys were so excited to run in the ocean. I don’t think they were expecting it to be so cold! It was also super windy that day, so down by the water was pretty chilly in general. I spent the whole time completely covered in towels. Partly because I was cold and partly because I hate the sun.

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I brought my real camera on the trip, but ended up taking a lot more phone photos. I feel so guilty because I have a pretty nice camera. And I only really use it these days to take doll pictures to put up on etsy. Instagram is my joy, though. This picture is so happy! Caden had a blast.

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Shepard was a little more hesitant about actually going in the water, but he had a really good time too.

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Beach people, for a day. Greg and I kind of can’t stand beaches. They’re fun to be at for like half an hour to see the water and take pretty pictures. But the sun, the sand, the inescapable heat – not our cup of tea! But I’m glad the boys, especially Caden, got to start the trip doing something he really wanted to do.

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Recruiting people to help with sandcastles, and then sitting in a chair while they do all the work.

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Sno-cones from the ice cream truck. Caden’s fell in the sand right after the picture.

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We went back to their house sometime in the late afternoon. The boys immediately went in the pool for almost the rest of the day!

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We had a birthday dinner for Mike and cousin Liz brought fancy cupcakes.

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I had half of this concoction, which was delish. And that was it for our first very full day in New Jersey!

Friday, June 30th

Friday was our scheduled day for New York. Originally we were going to take the boys around to some of the bigger sites in NYC, but I strongly argued that Caden probably wouldn’t be very cooperative. Just like in San Francisco last fall when we tried to bring him to all kinds of cool places, all he wanted to do was sit in the hotel. I’m not sure what it is, but if he doesn’t want to go somewhere or do something he’s going to try his hardest to ruin it for everyone. I really hope this is something he grows out of, or we’re just never going to be able to take him on vacation with us. Anyway, we compromised the plans with a ferry ride from New Jersey to the Statue of Liberty. Before the trip, it’s something both boys were very excited about seeing.

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At the New Jersey September 11th Memorial.

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On the ferry. It was hot out!

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Ellis Island. I went here on a high school trip to NYC. It was pretty cool!

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Lovely family picture. πŸ˜›

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After extensive security measures, we made it into the statue. We only had pedastal tickets because the crown tickets have been sold out for months in advance. Plus Shepard would have been too short to go to the top anyway. Caden’s foot was hurting, so we took the elevator up. He was feeling pretty emotional at this point. I chalked it up to being very, very tired. I let it fly for this particular outing. It really sucked how much he tried to ruin the rest of the trip, though.

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Finally found everyone else. Even with Steve holding onto Shepard, this picture terrifies me. Shepard is SO CLUMSY.

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In the museum area, trying to stay cool a few minutes longer.

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On the ferry back to NJ. I just have to say that I’m super impressed with how well Shepard did on the trip, despite a lot of missed sleep too. He was so cheerful and up for everything!

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Back at the house. Caden was happy again because he could swim.

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Shepard was in love with their dog, Piper. I’m not sure Piper quite reciprocated the feelings at first, but by the last day she was following him around.

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We spent the afternoon just relaxing. I read a ton and drank the mojito Liz made me.

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And finished the night with another birthday celebration!

Saturday, July 1st

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I gave the boys each a trip journal. Caden seemed to enjoy writing in one in San Francisco, so I thought they might like it. Shepard only wrote the first two days, but I loved what he had to say. So adorable!!

Saturday was supposed to be our down day. Just swimming and hanging out at home. I did a lot more reading while everyone was swimming. It was nice and relaxing.

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In the afternoon, Mike arranged for us to go to Keansburg Amusement Park with Zab’s sister-in-law, niece, and nephew. We (not me!) did the bumper cars first and were the only cars on the track!

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The adults (again, not me!) kept dishing out money for the kids to play all the carnival games. Caden got super angry that his second prize wasn’t big enough so that was it for him. Ruined the rest of the day for himself and Greg. But the other kids had a blast! I love Shepard’s rainbow donkey.

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We got Dip’n Dots to cool off. It was SO HUMID there. Right after we got the ice cream there was a total downpour. Fortunately we were standing right next to the arcade, so we had a place to stay dry.

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For dinner that night we went to a place called Jakeabob’s. (Greg and Caden stayed home since someone’s attitude had not yet improved.) The restaurant was outside on a pier over the ocean. The food was delicious! I had Tinga Tacos that were so spicy and perfect. We managed to finish our food and get out of there just seconds before another downpour.

Sunday, July 2nd

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Another lazy morning as everyone got ready for a 4th of July party.

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The party started around noon. I spent most of the day inside because I started getting a heat rash on my arms on Saturday and every time the sun touched my skin it would flare up again. So I’m sure I looked super anti-social since everyone was outside, but I just couldn’t deal with another day in the sun. Summer is NOT my season.

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But, the party was lovely! Just a couple extra families, lots of pool time, delicious food. Caden was having the time of his life entertaining and playing with people in the pool. For a kid who seems to have so many introverted tendencies, he sure comes across as an extrovert if a pool party is involved!

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In the evening, Uncle Mike brought out tons of sparklers for the kids and a couple of big fireworks.

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It was a very nice final full day to our trip!

Monday, July 3rd

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Our last day! Greg and Steve left with the van around 8am. They were driving to Pittsburgh where Greg had plans to stay with his good internet friend for two nights. Steve continued back on his own, staying at a hotel, and picking up Sarah on the way back, who was in Chicago visiting Melissa. We definitely had some complicated traveling plans between all of us these last two weeks, but it somehow all worked out flawlessly.

We spent our last morning just swimming and relaxing. The boys were pretty sad to leave Piper. It was a good incentive knowing they’d get to see Annie, Jack, and Rory that night, though!

Anyway, our stay in New Jersey was really nice! Mike and Zab were such good hosts. We had so much space too, which was awesome. The boys loved playing video games with cousin Adam and going on walks with Liz and Piper. We’ll definitely have to visit again someday.

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Back on the airplane, going home. This flight felt like forever to me. But, uneventful. We made it back to Wisconsin, to Cindy’s car, and on our way back home.

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About fifteen minutes into the drive Shepard finally stopped talking and I looked behind me and he was bent over with his head in his hands. NEVER a good sign with him. He gets migraines that come on in a split second and if you don’t get him medicine and in bed immediately, he WILL throw up. Which is very, very unfortunate if we’re not at home! I was ripping through Caden’s backpack trying to get the bag at the bottom that was carrying his wet swimsuit. But I wasn’t fast enough. Shepard had already thrown up everywhere. EVERYWHERE. We drove until we could stop and spent quite awhile cleaning him and the car up enough to get back home. It was a pretty crappy end to the trip.

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Finally, we were home! My mom came over earlier with the cats and went to pick up Annie so she’d be at home waiting for us. Which considering Shepard’s explosion, I’m super glad we had arranged ahead of time! It was awesome to get back home to her! I’m not really sure how I feel about the place we boarded her. Their website said that they’d send photos and updates, but they never did. On Thursday night I emailed to ask how she was doing. They said great and that she had fun playing with all her new friends. I figured since I asked once they’d send me more updates, but never heard a word. I assume she had a good time because she loves playing with other dogs more than anything in the world. But the lack of promised updates was very disappointing. Anyway, she’s been unusually tired this week too, so I think she really had a great time while we were away!

Tuesday, July 4th

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I was able to reserve a spot the night before for the parade. I thought it would be too late, but we got the same spot as last year. Right around noon we wandered down there and I got some cheese fries from the fire station fundraiser.

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We watched the parade for about 15 minutes, but were all just SO hot and SO tired. Shepard started bawling the first time another kid beat him to a piece of candy and I just didn’t want to be there for two more hours. So we went back home and had some quiet time instead. Much needed!

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In the afternoon we went over to my mom’s house to spend some time with my Uncle Jerry and Aunt Toni who were visiting from Arizona. We had a delicious meal and hung out in the yard with the dogs. Unfortunately, when we weren’t looking, Annie managed to get over my mom’s fence. Now that she knows she can do that, it might make visiting with her a lot more stressful. πŸ™

After a few hours we swung by Noe’s to pick up all our luggage, that Steve had brought back in the van. Then back home again to do more laundry and more resting. I wanted to go to bed early SO badly. But the boys were so well behaved all day, they really wanted to see the fireworks, so we powered through.

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At 9:00 we left to walk to Fireman’s Park. Last year we only walked about halfway and could only see about half the fireworks over the trees. So this year we wanted to get the full experience. I was expecting it to be jam packed because of the carnival and band, but there was plenty of space to sit.

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We ended up having perfect timing! I’m really glad we stayed up for it. The boys cuddled on up on my lap and we enjoyed the show. The walk home was very long and exhausting, but overall, a really good holiday!

Wednesday, July 5th

Late Wednesday morning, I brought the boys over to my mom’s house and headed to Milwaukee to pick Greg up from the airport. Then we went to my cousin Jenny’s house where there was another family gathering with the aunt and uncle from AZ.

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The boys had such a great time playing with their (second?) cousins. Even though we all live relatively close to each other, we never seem to have time to get together anymore. It was fun to catch up with everyone.

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I was pretty dead tired at this point. We headed back home and planned to go right to bed. BUT, we got word that Timmy and Brittany were in the hospital. The baby was coming! When it seemed like things were progressing, I wasn’t able to fall asleep I was so excited. So…I didn’t really sleep that night.

Thursday, July 6th

BABY HUDSON IS BORN!

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My very first nephew was born at 2:03am on Timmy and Brittany’s 5th wedding anniversary. Hudson Taylor Braatz was 6 lbs, 1 oz and 18.5 inches long. It sounds like everything went pretty smoothly. I was so excited!! I’m an aunt! The boys have their first first cousin! We have a baby in the family again! Super exciting. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

So Thursday morning we spent working in the garden a bit and pulling out all our failed radishes. Then we had to go to Caden’s therapy session. And then we headed to Milwaukee to meet Hudson!

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I got lots of time to hold him first while Greg, Timmy, and the boys went to get some Ian’s Pizza for dinner. He was SO tiny!!

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Caden loves babies and toddlers so much. He’s going to have a lot of fun with Hudson in the coming years!

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Shepard was not ready to hold him yet. But he was very curious!

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Super congrats to the new family of three! I hope we can go visit him again in the next week or two. Such a cutie!

Friday, July 7th

We all had a much needed fairly quiet day at home. Greg was working, but at home.

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The boys had their first bath in forever. They showered a few times in New Jersey, but really needed a soak!

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On Friday afternoon we went over to Noe’s. Sarah was still visiting and we gave her her birthday presents a little early. Then we headed out to Oshkosh for a visit/dinner with Steve’s side of the family.

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More cousin time! Even though they’ve just gotten their first real cousin this week, I’m so thankful we have all these other branches of our own cousins’ kids for the boys to play with. It seems like especially in the last year or two, they’re really enjoying the benefits of cousin time whenever it can happen.

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We’re so tired.

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Caden reading Trevor a book to stop all the wrestling and running. That lasted about ten seconds.

Anyway, we had pizza and dessert, stayed a few hours to hang out. It was fun! I look forward to our next gathering when I’m not about to pass out from exhaustion.

Saturday, July 8th

Almost done, almost done. I don’t think I’ve ever had this much social interaction in such a short period of time. It was fun, truly. But…it was a lot. By Saturday I was SO ready to just be done and have life go back to normal. But we had one more big event – a wedding for a Noe family friend that they grew up with.

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Back to Milwaukee for the fourth time this week! My mom came over to watch the boys and Annie because it was a no kid wedding. Which kind of irritated me at first, but it ended up working out really well. Greg and I really needed a day away from them! And they really needed a low key day of just being at home.

The ceremony was short and sweet. And then with a big gap before the cocktail hour and dinner, on a whim Greg suggested we book it across Menomonee Falls to make a showing ofΒ Baby Driver. We NEVER do spontaneous things. But it was perfect! It was exactly what we needed. Chill out time together. No talking necessary. It made me so happy that we did something fun FOR OURSELVES after basically two full weeks of focusing all our attention outward. I’m glad we went. πŸ™‚

The reception was a bit crazy. The wedding couple had so many friends!! 250 people crammed into a room where almost nobody could move! The dinner lasted 2.5 hours. It was a lot. Lovely wedding and I’m glad we could be there to celebrate with them. But by the time the dancing started, we were ready to head out!

Sunday, July 9th

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And finally, the last of our daily commitments! I met my parents in the morning and we went to the annual Swan Park Craft Fair. Usually a huge craft fair, it really seemed to be lacking this year. Kind of disappointing, but still fun. I bought three dip mixes, sour cherry balls for Greg, and a pair of vintagey crystal earrings. Afterward we had our annual lunch tradition at Cousins. And a trip to Twisted Sister. Then my parents left to go visit Hudson and I went to Sun Prairie to do all my grocery shopping while I could do it alone. Then I went home and crashed!

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While I was gone, Greg was working on odds and ends. He got some chicken wire to wrap around the fence I put up originally. I was trying to keep the bunnies out because last year they ate all our peppers. But apparently the bunnies here are very skinny because they could jump right through the holes. Hopefully it’s well protected now. I want those peppers!

Looking Ahead

And that’s it! Our two weeks of insanity are over! They were really a lot of fun, but I am so tired now. I want normal back. It makes me so sad that summer is basically half over and I feel like it hasn’t even truly begun yet. Those lazy days of chilling at home, playing with friends, going to the pool – they haven’t even started yet. We have a lot of things to fit into these next eight weeks before school beginsΒ again.

This week, though, is about recovering. Getting the house in order, resting, making dinner for the first time in two weeks! I’m also hoping to get back to work in the next day or two. Hopefully some pool days. Maybe going to see the new Spiderman movie. And catching up with some friends. I’m excited about having a boring life again. I can only handle so much excitement! πŸ™‚

11 Year Anniversary Weekend Getaway

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On Sunday we celebrated our 11 year wedding anniversary! Every year we struggle with trying to come up with a unique vacation spot, usually just for a couple days and within easy driving distance from home. This year felt especially hard and I was leaning toward skipping a trip all together. Spring has been super busy, we had a big vacation in fall, we’re going to New Jersey in June, it just felt overwhelming to add one more thing to the calendar. But we were super lucky and there just happened to be a cancellation at A Secret Cottage posted on facebook at the exact time I checked when we were all in the car together – for our actual anniversary weekend! This is the one place Greg really wanted to go back to, so it seemed perfect. He doesn’t usually have much of an opinion on where we go or what we do, so it was really nice we could go somewhere that he loved this year.

A Secret Cottage is an adorable little cottage that we came across when trying to find a place for a fall getaway a few years ago. When we don’t have other bigger fall vacation plans, like the last two years, Greg and I have always tried to have a getaway around my birthday in October. We were fortunate enough to find this little place and spend my 30th birthday here. It’s only about an hour from home, but in the middle of a bunch of rolling hills and farmland. Basically in the middle of nowhere. The cottage is down a private drive and has its own private little lake. The building is clean and cute with a loft bedroom and large jacuzzi overlooking the lake, a full kitchen, a living room stocked with tons of dvds, a large shower room, two porches, a fire pit, a dock with paddle boat, and walking trails all around the property. It’s pretty great! It’s also very hard to get into if you’re not booking a year in advance. But if you’re looking for a secluded getaway sometime this is a great place to check!

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On Saturday morning, Shepard and I took Annie to the vet for her first boarding experience. It was so sad! She put up a big fuss when they took the leash from me and tried to get out of her collar to get back to me. That’s the first I’ve ever seen her try that maneuver. It was only for two nights, but I felt really bad. We’ve only had her for two months and I really didn’t want her to think we abandoned her the way her original family must have. πŸ™ But we didn’t really have any other options. Dog owning is a lot more complicated than cat owning in this regard. You can never just pick up and leave for a night without a lot of planning.

Anyway, next we dropped off the boys at Greg’s parents house. They had lots of fun plans with the grandparents for the weekend. And finally, Greg and I headed off to the Dells for a big lunch. Since the cottage is so far removed from everything, we were planning to just eat out once each day so we could spend the majority of the time just relaxing and hanging out. I did restaurant research ahead of time – we never seem to have much luck just randomly picking places. So Saturday’s lunch was at Dells Distillery. We got the sampler appetizer platter with tots, chicken fingers, fried pickles, and cheesecurds. They were all pretty blah and bland.

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Greg had a burger and I had a chicken sandwich. Also fairly disappointing.

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There was a fudge shop next door, so I stopped in to find a dessert after that disappointing lunch. I bought a $3 smokehouse caramel square. It was pretty good.

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We never considered that being Memorial Weekend, it was also Dells kickoff weekend with all the outdoor waterparks. The city was jam packed. We didn’t have any interest in doing touristy things or walking through the crowds. But we still had some time to kill, so we went to one of my favorite places ever – the Craft Mall. In the antique section I was super excited to find some Steiff and old teddy bears. Those are my absolute favorite thing to collect because they are so hard to find. The hunt is always so rewarding when I finally come across an adorable little bear. Greg bought me this one as an anniversary gift. I love it!

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We made it to the cottage at 3:00 on the dot.

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Turtle and fish feeding is highly encouraged at the cottage and they have a tub of food for all the guests to use. This huge snapping turtle was right by the dock waiting for us. We fed him right away. No sign of him on Sunday, but fed a bunch of painted turtles. And then this guy came out to say goodbye on Monday. It’s such a little thing, but it really made the whole cottage experience so much more fun!

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On a paddle boat ride. Boating makes me pretty nervous, even on tiny little pond lakes. Pond lakes filled with turtles and gigantic fish, mind you!! But it was fun to paddle around. It’s the only boat ride we took because it was super windy on Sunday.

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Do you think I can pull off a hat?! I keep seeing women online with big hats and I always think they look so cute! Since the sun is basically my arch nemesis in summer and I HATE being hot and blinded, I bought myself two hats to try this year. But I’m nervous about actually wearing them in public because I never see real people wear hats like this! Dilemma. πŸ™‚

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On our boat ride we also saw a beaver swimming around us. He hung around the whole evening.

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Next, we went for a walk around the trails. We saw some deer, but I didn’t get a picture.

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Saturday’s dinner was frozen pizza and these frozen peach margarita type things I found at the store last week. They were pretty good!

The rest of Saturday was for relaxing and watching part of a movie. It was a really good first day!

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The cottage owners supply guests with a small container of biscuits and four eggs. So that was our breakfast on Sunday morning.

20170528_110643 11 years

Eleven years married! Seventeen and a half years together! A lifetime, basically. A lot has happened in the last eleven years. Two jobs for Greg, four jobs for me, four years in Minnesota, two kids, two apartments, one house swap, six months of living with the in-laws, two houses, two cats (actually they came before), one dog, six vehicles, a lot of ups and downs, and a whole lot of memories. I kind of hope the next eleven are a little less eventful. πŸ™‚

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We spent a long time on Sunday morning just chilling out. I was pretty tired and into a really good book, so I wanted to read. Finally around 10:30ish we decided to go out and explore. Our first destination was Observatory Hill in Montello. Well, really in the middle of nowhere. We never would have known about it except it was listed in a brochure at the cottage. There were zero signs on the way there. The hill was at the end of a road only marked “dead end.”

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There was no clearly marked trail, only a few little spots like this. We picked the right one.

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A little history for you.

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We made it to the top! It was a bit more of a hike than I was expecting. Not a good sandal hike! But it was so pretty when we reached the top.

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So sunny! But it was only about 65 degrees and felt really good. I’m so glad we ended up with such amazing weather after weeks of rain and gloom.

I didn’t take any pictures, but our next stop was Lunch Creek Winery. Also only found because it was in a paper brochure. I was expecting it to be more of a full scale vineyard, but it was basically just someone’s barn that they open up on weekends. We had a free wine tasting, trying out all the sweeter wines. A lot of fruit wines. We ended up buying a bottle of their sweetest, a caramel apple wine. I think I’ll save it for fall.

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It was an hour back in the other direction, but we decided to go back to the Dells for a late lunch. I kept looking at the menu and really wanted to go here, to B-Lux. Greg got a buffalo chicken sandwich, parmesan dusted waffle fries, and an oreo hard shake that had Bailey’s and Kahlua in it. I love our vacation meal pictures. πŸ™‚

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I had a southern fried chicken sandwich with cajun mayo, sweet potato fries with maple bacon salt, and a “long weekend” hard shake, made with Creme de Cacao, vodka, nutella, toasted marshmallows, and graham crackers. I thought the whole meal was delicious! I’m glad we made the drive back there.

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At this point we were both really exhausted, so we went back to the cottage for the rest of the night.

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More fish feeding! Because it’s a private lake you can fish without a license. The cottage also has a variety of poles we could have used, but Greg didn’t want to deal with taking the fish off the hooks for me over and over again. I’m sure it would have been an awesome fishing experience because there were just so many around, but I don’t blame him. I’m a fish wimp.

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A pretty panorama of the cottage’s yard area. We didn’t really make use of the fire pit or porch seating. It was pretty buggy out already. And allergies…they’re the worst.

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Trying to watch the sunset, which wasn’t very magnificent that night. But a sunset nonetheless. I look pretty awful at this point. Allergies suck. I try to ignore them. The medications I started taking last year really helped with a lot of the sinusy stuff, but I haven’t yet found anything that really makes my eyes any better. It’s such a beautiful time of year to be outside, but also hard not to be halfway miserable anytime I’m out. πŸ™

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Panorama of the porch and lakeside of the cottage. So pretty!

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Toasting our eleven years with my favorite pink moscato. I loved the champagne flutes they had there!

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To many, many more years! (And maybe a vacation past itsΒ grass allergy season next year!)

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Ended the night with one more walk around the trails.

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Monday morning and time to leave. We didn’t really linger around after we were both up. I forgot a picture, but we had some fancy cinnamon roll frozen waffles for breakfast. None of our cottage meals were too thrilling, but I wanted a real vacation where I didn’t have to do any work. So simple it was!

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Next we picked up the boys. Sounded like they had a really good time! Popcorn store, zoo, movie nights, a day at Cedar Lake with the cousins, and lots of time in the sandbox. I’m glad they got to have a little vacation of their own.

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And six very long hours later, I was able to pick up Annie! She survived! According to her report card she missed us, but did pretty well. She didn’t eat very much, but she doesn’t eat very much at home either. And she enjoyed playing with the toys. She was definitely super excited to see us! She started whimpering as soon as we turned onto our street. Usually she only does that when she realizes we’re almost to the dog park. We were all very happy to be reunited! Well, except for maybe the cats who got the long weekend and house all to themselves!

So overall, a really sweet eleven year weekend getaway celebration. I wish it could have been at least another night longer, but we’ll take what we can get! The weekend was exactly what we needed to connect and feel closer after some pretty crazy months.

Happy anniversary, honey!

Busy Week Recap and Sunday Intentions

Amy and Caden

Ooh boy, it was a big week. I had plans to write about all that I did,Β right after it happened, but just haven’t gotten around to it. Busy, busy. I feel like these Sunday Intentions posts are becoming much more about evaluating the week past instead of talking about the week ahead. But I like the journaling aspect of these posts and remembering the details of big and small things that happened over the week. So here goes.

Caden

On Monday, Caden had his final IEP meeting. He passed! He is no longer in speech therapy and requiring any type of special education services. Which is awesome. It’s truly amazing how far he’s come in the last few years. When he was 18 months old and still not saying any words, the doctors were becoming concerned and wanted us to keep an eye on things. Around two years old, we moved back to Wisconsin and got him into Birth to 3. Right at three he started taking speech therapy twice a week and was diagnosed with an apraxia of speech, which means the words were not connecting properly from his brain to his mouth. In 4K we still couldn’t understand more than half of the words he said. And that was us, the people who knew him best. He was practically unintelligible to anyone else, and other kids were occasionally making fun of him for it. Β In kindergarten, first grade, and now second grade, he’s been continuing therapy at school, but very unhappy about it because he missed so much in regular class. He was often taken out of class 2-3 times a week, and it was progressively becoming more a lot upsetting to him. And finally, in the last few months, we all decided that he was ready to graduate from it! He’s worked very hard the last six and a half years, and I’m incredibly proud of him. A few years ago, I honestly thought he’d still be taking speech into middle school. He’s done awesome!

Heart Model

On Tuesday morning, we had to take Shepard to the Children’s Hospital for an echocardiogram. He’s been sick a lot this winter and in January the doctor noticed a heart murmur. She thought it was probably because he was dehydrated, but wanted him to come back to get it checked out again later. She could still hear it that appointment, so we were sent to a pediatric cardiologist for a more official consultation.

Silly

It was a long morning. The doctor listened and said, “That’s not a murmur, that’s a click! A click is a lot worse!!” She was quite enthusiastic about it. She wanted to get us in for the echo, which apparently we weren’t actually scheduled for. So we had to wait to get fit into the schedule and then we had to wait for insurance to decide if they would cover it or not. All while thinking about what the words “that’s a lot worse!” could mean.

Echo

Long story short, he is totally fine. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ He did a great job laying on the table during the echo. It lasted about an hour. A very long hour! The doctor came back when it was over and declared that he was totally and completely fine. We asked what the click was and she shouted, “I have no idea!” She thought perhaps he just has an acoustic chest… Then she stood there and repeatedly asked Shepard to promise he’d never smoke because that’s the worst thing he could do for his heart. He kept staring at her blankly and I suggested that he probably doesn’t even know what smoking is because I don’t think he’s ever seen a smoker. But she continued to say she was serious and she needs a promise from him. It was an interesting appointment. But we’re so grateful that everything turned out to be great.

Plants

On Tuesday night, Greg was called out to help my brother with a broken down car situation. So I was alone with the boys at night, which practically never happens. We decided to use the time to finally look through the Gurney’s catalog and plan out our gardens. We went out and took measurements, made an official gardening notebook, and drew a to scale plot for us to plan it all out. Caden re-wrote our list of seeds we bought, and a few extra plants we’ll want to buy when it’s time. We’re planning to start a few things in one of those early seed starters too. I’m pretty excited about it! The boys aren’t often interested in things they can do with me, and I’m not particularly interested in the things they love the most (i.e. video games), so it’s really exciting to have this big project the three of us can work on together throughout the next many months.

Ballerinas

On Wednesday, I was working hard to finish up a big batch of dolls. I was looking forward to finally catching up and making some sales. And then because of construction and/or a truck hitting a line and/or a windstorm blowing down a tower, we were without internet and cell signal for the entire day! It was pretty crazy. Definitely makes you realize how much you rely on that technology to feel connected to the world. Being home alone with the insane winds, not having any way to contact anyone, was kind of freaky. And also extremely frustrating because I couldn’t get anything listed until very late that night. On a positive note, I did go with Laura to the Rio Drumfit class. It was fun to be there again. I think we’ll continue going on weeks that it works out for us. But I still wish the class would come back to Columbus. Much more convenient night and location.

Lego Batman

On Thursday I decided to catch up on cleaning the house. When I’m in the middle of a big batch of dolls, I tend to let a lot of the housework go. So I spent the majority of the day just putzing around.

On Friday, there was no school (no idea why), so Greg took the day off and we had a family day. We went to see the new Lego Batman movie. It’s the first time all four of us have ever seen a movie in the theater together! I thought it was pretty funny!

Friday night the boys went on a sleepover and Greg and I had a date night. We were feeling pretty lazy, so we just stayed in and basically watched six hours of tv. But it was kind of awesome! It’s pretty rare we spend such a solid block of time together. And a treat to actually binge watch a show (Superstore!) all in the same night. Reminds me of life before kids when we’d watch episode after episode of 24 every single night. πŸ™‚ Anyway, it was fun.

Galena

And finally, my girls weekend in Galena! We’ve been planning this for over two months and it was great to finally have happen! Life has been crazy and I really needed the break from everything. It was also just really cool to connect with my friends longer than the two minute conversations we barely manage at the playground after school.

We spent most of Saturday going through some of the unique little shops in the downtown area. We all found some fun treasures! We also went to two wine tastings. I’ve never done wine tastings before, but it was really fun! I’m so unaccustomed to alcohol, so I liked trying out things I would never consider buying if I just looked at the bottle. We also went to a couple fun restaurants and pubs and then spent most of the night just chilling out at our two bedroom villa with pizza, cheese, and our favorite wines. We all caught up on sleep and reveled in a day and a half of not needing to be moms! I had a really great time and look forward to doing it again in the future! πŸ™‚

THIS WEEK

So onto this week! Thankfully, the calendar is looking a lot more open. Except for that it’s Pi Day on Tuesday, the Ides of March on Wednesday, Guster Day on Thursday, and St. Patrick’s Day on Friday. I’m not really sure how to celebrate on Wednesday and Thursday, but Greg always likes to make special note of those days!

Focus: Work!

It’s a working week. I need to make up for getting very little done last week. I volunteered to make some raffle baskets for the school spring carnival coming up, which I’m very excited about, I just don’t have a single thing made for them yet. So that’s my first priority, and then I need to get going hard core on Easter dolls and bunnies. The clock is ticking!! I still feel so very behind. My new system of writing down my hours has really been interesting. I’m realizing that my goal of five hours a day is nearly impossible between errands, laundry, meals, and school pick ups and drop offs. And last week at least, almost all of those hours were put in after dinner. NOT the way I want it to be.

Second Focus: Me Time

This last week really left me drained. Getting away this weekend was a lot of fun, but I now kind of feel more tired than ever. As much as I want to get a lot of work done, I don’t want to do it at the expense of my health. So I’m planning to try and get to bed early, take naps if I need them, and try not to work so much at night. I’m also hopefully going to a fun vintage store with my mom on Wednesday night. Weather permitting. But it will hopefully work out and be a really fun mid-week treat!

Meal Planning – I actually did it this week!

Monday – Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas – I always have chicken and a lot of peppers – easy peasy.

Tuesday (PI DAY) – Buffalo Chicken Pot Pie, based off of this recipe. It might be gross, it might be good, I can’t make up my mind. I don’t really like regular chicken pot pie, but maybe if I make some sort of buffalo concoction it’ll be good. πŸ™‚ Also, perhaps this Peanut Butter Brownie S’mores Pie.Β 

Wednesday – Guys are on their own, assuming I can get to that shop

Thursday – Costco’s St. Patrick’s Day ravioli. I would save it for Friday, but we haven’t had pizza a couple Fridays in a row, so I want to get back on track.

Friday – Pizza. Maybe green pizza. Or at least shamrock shaped pizza. I made some quick jalapeno popper naan pizzas for dinner tonight which were pretty great. So maybe I’ll do that again, with extra jalapenos on top, and call it Irish!

Have a great week! Enjoy all the mini holidays! Though you probably don’t know who Guster is lol. πŸ™‚

 

Mixed Feelings

Caden Reading

This is a post about our trip to Chicago yesterday. But it’s also a post about parenting a challenging child and all the yucky feelings that come with it. Words that will surely backfire on me and make me even more unpopular with my extended family, but I’m going to say them anyway.

So. We went to Chicago yesterday to visit my sister-in-law Melissa and her boyfriend Andrew. They’re unable to come to Shepard’s birthday party next weekend and we haven’t seen them in awhile – or visited Chicago in a couple of years. Shockingly, the boys were great on the drive there. I expected nonstop whining and complaining the way they could barely handle the hour long drive to the Dells last weekend. But Shepard mostly just looked out the window and relaxed and Caden spent most of the drive reading the entirety of a book. A book we bought at a book fair earlier this week because I thought he’d like it. Even though at the time he was having a meltdown because “books are stupid! books are dumb! I hate reading!”

shepard card

Shepard got to open an early birthday present.

shepard open

A marble run – something he’s been saying he really wanted for the last few months because it’s his favorite thing to play with at school.

dog butt

Melissa and Andrew were dog sitting, so we had some fun doggy entertainment. πŸ™‚

greg caden perni

Dogs always know I want them to try and convince Greg to be a dog lover! I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. But I’m still hoping to sway him. Dogs are the best and I fully intend on owning one some day.

After the apartment tour (which was adorable) and hanging out for a few minutes, we went to a restaurant down the street for lunch. Which is when Caden turned the switch from being eight year old well behaved child to monstrous whiny brat for most of the rest of the day. It always just takes one tiny thing to set him off and ruin a day. Yesterday it started because he wanted to sit in a big upholstered booth and there wasn’t enough room for all of us. So we compromised to a half booth, half table and he sat in the booth. But then he realized he wasn’t sitting by Daddy, which is basically the end of the world. Sometimes I worry about how unhealthy his obsession is with being by Daddy ALL THE TIME. So he switched chairs, but then threw a fit because he was in a chair instead of the booth side. I eventually switched with him. I didn’t give in right away because at some point in life he needs to learn he can’t always have everything exactly the way he wants it. But shame on me, because I held out too long and ruined him for the rest of the day. He pouted through lunch and didn’t eat anything. Then he said he felt sick from the car ride, which ended an hour earlier.

map

The only planned activity for our day was to ride the train to the Wrigley Field stop. Shepard’s never been on a train before and was really excited about it. So excited that he ran full speed into a crosswalk and came extremely close to being hit by a speeding car making a turn in front of us. Sometimes it blows my mind how completely unprepared my kids are for being in a big city, even for a day. I thought once we lived in town they’d at least know how to stop at intersections and look both ways before crossing the street. But they don’t have a clue. They run everywhere, they are constantly pushing and shoving each other, they never pay ANY attention to the potential dangers around them. It’s so stressful. And when we try to remind them to be more careful, or hold their hands, or grab them before they’re about to be hit by a car, they retaliate with anger and even more carelessness.

shepard train

We were only on the train for three stops, but Shepard was having the greatest time. πŸ™‚ He talked nonstop about what he saw out the window. Then he decided to stand up and “surf.” I grabbed him multiple times right before he slammed into the man standing behind him, which I’m pretty sure he was completely unaware of. It was nice to see him having so much fun, though. He was pretty delightful the entire day.

cubs

champions

The weather was amazing yesterday. I think it was around 50 degrees and Chicago didn’t have any snow or giant puddles, like we have here. It was the perfect day for a leisurely walk around Wrigley Field. Except for Caden, who whined and moaned the entire time. He’s just not happy doing anything out and about. Ever. And he can never just quietly go along with things. He has to make sure everybody knows he’s miserable and he’s not going to be happy until we’re miserable too. This was almost our entire trip to San Francisco in October. He was pretty well behaved at the few big family events (wedding, rehearsal, dinners). So nobody could understand why we were having a pretty crappy trip overall. The reason? Caden. Always Caden, always making everything SO difficult. He never wants to do anything, he never wants to experience what the world has to offer, he never wants to enjoy himself. It makes vacations absolutely suck.

The worst part about him acting like that, especially when we’re on trips with other people, is that it automatically turns me into the mean mom. I have to be in mom mode all the time. I try really hard to do whatever my kids need to keep them happy in the moment. Like battles over food at restaurants? It’s not going to happen because it’s not worth the outcome after a fight like that. But when my kids start being absolute brats and treating everybody like crap? I can’t just let it slide. When Caden was younger it was a lot easier to excuse behavior like this and still have fun. But he knows better now. And that makes everything worse.

printer

We were walking around Wrigley Field and there was a fan shop with a man embroidering a jersey in the window. So we eventually went in and Shepard stood and watched.

penny machine

Grandpa and the boys had to get Cubs pennies. Noe’s are Cubs fans, if you haven’t figured that out yet. I’m not, but I don’t care enough to protest them, especially after everyone’s excitement over the World Series last fall.

new shirt

Shepard really wanted a Cubs shirt. He doesn’t have any, so I helped him look through the kids section. It was so cute how carefully he was picking through every shirt to try and find one in his size with a nice enough picture. He was so proud of his (Grandpa’s!) purchase that he had to put the shirt on immediately after we left the store.

train

Train ride back, Shepard is still enthralled.

dog pile

More doggy love. I never really understood the corgi obsession, but Perni was pretty cute!

marble run

We spent the rest of the afternoon just hanging out while the boys and Andrew worked on building the marble run.

silly

tall marble run

birthday cupcakes

And finally, an early birthday treat. I think Shepard had a fantastic day. πŸ™‚

Fortunately, we were all so tired on the way back that the boys slept most of the way. I’ve never seen them so well behaved for six hours in the car – almost none of that actually playing tablet.

Anyway. Back at home now and having mixed feelings about another day that could have been really awesome, but was ruined – at least to me – by Caden’s attitude. He’s always been a challenging child and we’ve gone through many, many phases of him being violent and angry. But for awhile things seemed to be going pretty well. I thought he was finally growing up. And then days like this happen. And last weekend at the Dells in the game room. And almost every night when he has panic attacks over not having enough time to do whatever it is he wanted to do that night. His anxiety levels over everything are so high. It reminds me a lot of myself when I can’t get to the things I really want to do in a day. But I’m an adult and can usually contain my stress a whole lot better.

Caden’s been miserable with school the last few months. He actually got in trouble at school a couple days ago, for the first time ever. I don’t know what to do with him. And maybe this sounds terrible, but I hate how much I feel like his attitude and the way he’s been treating people, reflect directly on how clearly I must be failing as a parent. It can’t be true, at least not entirely, because Shepard doesn’t have these problems. He does have stubborn fits usually over food he doesn’t want to eat, but for the most part he’s a sunny and funny and delightful and caring person to be around. So two years later we’re doing things right with him? That doesn’t make sense. But it doesn’t stop me from feeling like such a failure. And from feeling like other people must surely blame me for the way Caden acts. He’s my son, he has my genes, and sometimes he has a lot of my personality. Shepard has all the best of Greg’s personality and then some. Caden has all the worst of my personality and more. Therefore this continues to feel like it’s all my fault.

I could ramble on about this for a long time, but I’ll stop now. I just wish we could have more good days. Especially when we’re out with extended family. He feels comfortable enough to act the way he does at home with us. At least with friends or at school he’s a lot better at containing himself. I just wish people could understand how hard this sometimes feels. I feel very alone in these challenges and some days are just plain tough.

Crazy Fun Weekend!

20170203_172152 great wolf lodge

It has been a couple of crazy days! I thought about dividing this up into a couple different posts, but I’m just going to cheat and throw them all together into one big compilation of our fun weekend.

On Friday morning I picked up my goddaughter, McKenna, and spent the day with her while her parents closed on a new house. We went to see the movie Sing, which I really liked! Maybe I do like animated movies. πŸ™‚ Then we had lunch at Monk’s, did a little grocery shopping, and I dropped her off at her new house and got to look around for a few minutes. I can’t wait to see it when they’re all moved in! It was fun to spend time with McKenna, though I think I need to do it more often so she gets more comfortable hanging out with me.

I had just enough time back at home to take a half hour nap before it was time to gather everything up for the Dells. Shepard had a cold this week and Greg and I bought caught it on Thursday. Caden caught it on Saturday. Of course, because vacations are always the best time to get sick. πŸ˜› Anyway, we were going into the weekend a little worse for wear, but we made the most of it.

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The Dells

For Christmas, Greg’s parents usually give the boys a weekend in the Dells as one of their bigger gifts. We really appreciate the experience gift and it gives us all something to look forward to in the long winter months. This year we checked out Great Wolf Lodge for the first time. We left right after school, had a quick dinner at Taco Bell, and then got settled into the hotel. Our rooms were gigantic and had nice fireplaces and sitting areas. The boys were ready to swim immediately after getting in the room. We all went down for a little bit and explored around the waterpark. Their favorite of the night was the family “hot tub,” which was more like warm bathwater. πŸ™‚

20170203_193828(0)dippin dots

After some time in the water, we explored the rest of the hotel and stopped at the sweet shop to share a container of Dippin’ Dots ice cream. Greg had never had it before (or the boys), so his parents had to buy him some. πŸ™‚

20170203_194636 bear paw

More exploring. I was about to keel over from cold induced exhaustion at this point. But we still had to stop at the game room!

20170203_200056 game room

Just a couple of games before turning in for the night.

20170203_203943 bedtime

Before we got to the game room, Caden was running really fast down the halls and he ran into one of those penny smashing machines. He hurt his arm pretty bad and wasn’t in the mood for any more pictures. Fortunately, they both fell asleep really quickly. It was adorable because after awhile Shepard kept trying to roll over and snuggle into Caden’s arm in his sleep. Caden would start stirring, Greg would get up and move him back to his side of the bed, and then he’d immediately roll back over to Caden. I couldn’t stop laughing. But it was also really sweet.

frog pond

Despite the late night, the boys and I were up before 6. Fortunately I had the foresight to bring some donuts on this trip, so we just ate donuts and played tablet/read for a couple of hours. Then we were back at the pool when it opened at 9. This little bridge contraption is always Caden’s favorite at any waterpark we go to. This time he was honing his skills on getting across without even touching the rope.

caden ball

waterslide

It’s kind of funny to me how we keep going to waterparks, but the boys are mostly just interested in actually swimming. They both LOVED the wave pool this time around. Wave pools freak me out after feeling like I was going to drown in one at Noah’s Ark as a kid. But of course super swimmer Caden kept going as deep as he could and never wanted to leave! Shepard enjoyed going down the lazy river tube slide a bunch of times with Greg, but other than that had no interest in the slides. So Greg and I decided to check out one of the milder slides together. It was pretty fun, but the line was too long to feel like it was worth going again.

20170204_123234a ll the tickets

After swimming, we went back to our rooms for a little while. Steve ran to Culver’s to get lunch to bring back to the hotel. As much as I love going to delicious sit down restaurants, simplicity really is the best when you’re in situations like this with kids. After we ate we headed back to the game room to use up the rest of our points. Caden had some sort of meltdown and went back to the room, so Shepard got to play all the rest of the games and claim the tickets.

ticket prizes

Without any prompting, he spent his tickets buying two of everything, so Caden could have prizes too. He really loved his new purple bracelet and Love ring. πŸ™‚ He also bought a bunch of candy bracelets and tootsie rolls for Grandpa.

20170204_141416 greg and amy

The Ice Castles

It was time to check out of the hotel, so then we headed to our final destination – the Dells Ice Castles.

20170204_141442(0) ice castles

20170204_141521 blue ice

20170204_141556(0) greg and caden

20170204_142009 ice

20170204_142330 cool blue ice

These were definitely quite the thing to experience! It would have been a little more enjoyable if it weren’t so cold or crowded, but we all had fun. Shepard never wanted to leave!

20170204_142521 caden

20170204_143951(0) slide

20170204_144017 slide

20170204_144901 chute

Overall, it was a really fun trip. Thank you, Steve and Cindy! We all agreed that Great Wolf Lodge was our favorite of the waterparks we’ve visited the last few years. I’d definitely be okay with going back again someday.

IMG_0455 dips

Mom’s Birthday

Now on to today! Today we celebrated my mom’s birthday. She requested spinach dip, one of her favorite things I make. When my dad found out, he requested “normal dip.” So – both dips!

IMG_0457 brie

I had another brie in the fridge and some berries that needed to be used, so I made another batch of that brie from earlier in the week. Yummy!

IMG_0458 garlic cheese bread

Pull apart garlic cheese bread.

IMG_0459 potatoes

Roasted potatoes.

IMG_0460 chicken

And Cuban chicken with chimmichurri.

IMG_0464 gracie picture

Shepard drew a picture of Grandma’s dog Gracie saying “Please don’t disappear, Mom!” I have no idea what made him think to write those words. They were equally disturbing and hilarious! I like the dandelion he drew on the front.

IMG_0467 cadens card

Caden also drew a picture of Gracie. Apparently she’s the only of the three dogs that make an impression on the boys.

IMG_0473 new annie

I made her an Annie and pig set with some pig fabric she mentioned loving a few weeks ago. Timmy and Brittany gave her some coveted Lipstick Queen lipstick. Jealous!

IMG_0478 birthday cake

My dad brought a white raspberry cake from Carl’s Cakes for dessert. It was delicious!

IMG_0479 birthday cake

Shepard, the ham ball. He was trying to show off his “blue” lips after he tried on Grandma’s Hello Sailor Lipstick Queen lipstick.

IMG_0482 birthday cake

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Sunday Intentions

And finally, my last segment of this very long post. My intentions for the week are pretty simple – WORK! Last week was fun and crazy, but I didn’t get any sewing done. Even though I almost never get custom orders, last week I got an onslaught of them. Sometimes I like custom orders because they make people happy. But most of the time they frustrate me because I don’t have any time to work on the things I really want to work on. Which right now is a lot! So I need to get those done so I can move on to other things. Next week will be full of Shepard’s birthday related things, so this is my one big work week of the month apparently!

Have a good week!

Mt. Olympus

img_8390-bumper-cars

For Christmas, my in-law’s gave Caden and Shepard a trip to the Dells for their big present. The boys both love swimming so much and everyone is always ready for a getaway in these long Wisconsin winters. So last Saturday the six of us headed to Mt. Olympus for two days of fun!

img_8391-bumper-cars

One of the coolest parts of Mt. Olympus is their indoor theme park. Granted it was nothing magnificent, but it had more than enough to entertain us for awhile. It wasn’t crowded either, which was awesome. The boys were super excited to ride the bumper cars. I was the photographer because bumper cars only look like the perfect way to break my back to me!

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These also had a small indoor go-kart track. Go-kart racing is something they always want to do at Little Americka, but they’re not tall enough, so it was fun they finally had a chance to ride here.

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After lunch at Sprecher’s, some time in the arcade for the boys, a stop at the craft mall for the girls, we were able to check into our rooms. Shepard was SO excited. They both kept running around the room yelling, “I love this place!”

img_8408-so-happy-for-hotel

We spent about an hour in the waterpark area – sorry, no photos. It was really crowded and so loud. We managed a few slides, some time in the regular pool, and Caden even got to go in the hot tub for ages six and up.

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And not surprisingly, the arcade was the favorite place to be. They spent most of their arcade money (thanks, grandma and grandpa!) on these water racing games.

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Saturday night Greg, Cindy, Shepard, and I went back to the theme park to ride the balloon rides. They look so innocent from the ground, but were really kind of terrifying!

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I laughed for like ten minutes when I saw this picture! Shepard seemed to love the ride, but Cindy and I were recovering from it the rest of the night!

On Saturday night we had a snack picnic in our room, which was lots of fun. Then Saturday morning the girls went to the local Denny’s Diner to get their “famous cinnamon rolls” for breakfast. We then went back to the theme park and water park, had lunch at Famous Dave’s, and headed home. It was a great chance to get away from it all and have some fun!

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