Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Re-Vu

At the end of each school year, teachers will tell you how important it is to keep practicing the skills your child has learned that year.  You hear about the regression that occurs during the summer.  And each summer I mentally commit to do a little school time each day with my kids.  Well this summer I spent maybe two days reviewing skills.  My kids probably can't spell, remember their times tables, or a slew of other things, but we had a fun filled family summer.  And that in itself is a different kind of education, equally important.  August looked a little like this:                                    
unhealthy food
 Sportsman's Club Picnics
 Carnivals and Fairs
 Travis temporarily had the record for fastest pitch
 Hershey Park Boardwalk with water rides
 Hershey Park Regular Rides:  Kody saw this ride and said no way - See Here
Bike Rides and Park Days
 and Travis and I getting tired long before the kids did.
And then the last weekend before school we always plan one big 48 hour family fest.  This year we went to a friends pool- they filled their broken in ground hot tub to make the world's greatest sand box, then headed to a Barnstormers baseball game, watched some fireworks, had a snuggle in bed with kids morning, played, went to McDonalds for dinner, bowled a little during Hurricane Irene, snuggled in with Redbox videos, attended a baptism, went to church, lingered longer, and snuggled down one more time before receiving Father's Blessings for the new school year.   Man it was a good weekend.  Now back to a schedule.





What a cute little bum and boy!  Yummo!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

New Fun

The summer fun has been had.  But a new fun is about to begin.  School fun.  Yes my kids love school.  Yes all my kids.  And each is dying to start and I can't wait either.  But between then and now we have a whole lot of this planned.  
Don't want to start the school on the wrong foot - crying because of exhaustion.  So now fun Mary must be temporarily put on hold until the adjustment is made. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Celebrating 11 Years

My 11 Favorite Things About Travis

11.  He is uber strong - pound for pound I have not met anyone stronger.
10. Travis is totally without guile.
9.  With him I am a better person.
8.  He loves to be near me and will fall asleep on the floor by me if I'm not ready to go to bed yet.
7.  The eye contact and unspoken language we have developed as a couple.
6.  Literally the World's Best Dad!
5.  His very reserved, but hilarious sense of humor.
4.  Loves to help out - anyone with anything!
3.  Travis is a super hunk.
2.  He is the kindest man I have ever met.
1. He picked me to be his wife!

Thanks for the best 11 years of my life so far.  Here's to another 50!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

ChiTown

So Chicago is a big city.  Although I've been before the kids had not; additionally one of my "Besties" and college buddies lives there currently so we spent the last three days of vacation there.  I have the most mixed feelings about big cities.  As an individual I love them.  Love the adventure, something to do, constant activity, cultural events galore, etc...But as a wife and mother you sort of bug me with your ridiculous traffic, constant horn honking, overcrowding, and inability to be hospitable to the 100+ people you pass daily let alone acknowledge them. 

We visited the Chicago Children's Museum which was great - my favorite exhibit was a fort building room, although the kids really loved the fireman exhibit as well. We went to Navy Pier, where I learned Kristy had never had a funnel cake and her husband went to Dental School at Pitt. I know flaming travesty I tell you. We had intended to go to the Zoo, also free, but didn't get there as we got absorbed by all the fun things to do especially just explore, visit and eat. Kristy has kids with similar ages as mine.  Kristy lives in a 2nd floor walk up which is seriously gorgeous on the outside and inside. And her funky Italian landlady just remodeled the kitchen and I love her non-fear of color.

Kristy lives just off the Lake, minutes walking to the Magnificent Mile and minutes driving to the Zoo, Navy Pier, Millennium Park, etc... So we were in the heart of down town and loving it, minus the parking fees for everywhere you go or stay.  Travis did like that the city has more sprawl than Manhattan and that there are less enormously tall buildings blocking your view constantly.  If you are a foodie, you can imagine our visit was filled with food, food, and more food, but still not near enough time for all the food.  Uno's pizza is a Chicago started specialty chain, but loco in its pricing.  Seriously 3 pizzas for the bargain price of $87.  Be still my heart.  But local diners-Stella's for pies and desserts-, taco shops-Taco Burrito House, and bakeries-House of Fine Chocolates Patisserie-proved more normally priced and fantastic to the taste buds.  If I lived in Chicago I would be poor spending every last cent I owned trying every corner shop and restaurant.
If you are a young energetic somewhat crazy single this is the place to be, for those intolerant of crazy people go elsewhere, because there are some wackos here.  Since I minored in crazy in college I love a good visit.  And since I practice eating induced food comas it was also fun.  More than two weeks later I'm still trying to lose my vacation weight, but our family had the greatest time.  Travis commented the other day, "Sometimes our family has moments in life where I think of those family-isn't it about time commercials."  Life is one big contented sigh, I hope it's the same for you.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Minn-E-Soda

Dear Land of 10,000 Lakes,

I had high expectations for you.  I had heard so many rave reviews about your beauty, blah, blah, blah.  Long story short - I don't know that I'll miss you.  You fell sort of short for me.  Your scenery wasn't near as gorgeous as all the Alaska comparisons I had heard.  Duluth was kind of run down and a bit scary excluding some of the most wonderful gems of architecture throughout the nation that I have ever seen and a lighthouse.  I am a sucker for lighthouses.  Your children's museum left a bit to be desired, your citizens unfriendly, and Lake Superior in its infinite vastness could not even overcome all of that.  It probably didn't help that the day was overcast and we were nearing Day 7 on vacation and waning in energy levels and due to permanent road construction on your only city highway traveling through town was a nightmare.


As for the Twin Cities, well you were much better.  You had all the advantages of big city living without the big city.  Despite some crazy highways and traffic patterns you still possessed the open air charm of the Midwest.  I celebrated my birthday at the Mall of America and although not exciting there was a certain novelty factor I enjoyed.  My birthday dessert of fried dough, Auntie Anne's pretzel pieces in cinnamon and sugar, was delicious and our evening spent at the hotel pool was the most enjoyable part of my day - Note: Country Inn and Suites I fall in love with you more each time I stay: your borrow a book program, 24 hour cookies and beverage service and outstanding Continental Breakfast bring me back time and time again.  Minehaha Falls was beautiful but even more fun was riding our Wheel Fun Surrey as a family.  I thumb my nose at you, Mr. Wheel Fun Surrey Rental Man, who suggested it would not be enjoyable with just Travis and I peddling the trail.  How you underestimated the awesome physical stamina of my husband's understated physique and my twice a week spin classes.




I enjoyed the exploration, but I can safely say you are not a state I will be returning to in the near future of my own accord.

Love,
United States Traveler - Mary

Friday, August 12, 2011

Not So Cheesy

Next state on our vacation tour of states was Wisconsin.  Although I wanted to get the kids some squeaky cheese, I was not willing to pay the gas station prices of $6 for a tiny bag.  So this family knows nothing of the cheese that Wisconsin makes unless it is prepackaged and sold in our grocer's refrigerator section.  From Michigan we swept down and around Lake Michigan through Chicago, the kids sneak preview, and over to Madison.

It was a cool capital city with a free zoo and adjacent beach.  The city was clean, green, and very cool with all the natural water flowing around it.  The Henry Vilas Zoo was the perfect size for our kids, not overwhelmingly huge, but covering all major animals.  It had places to eat with featured Food of the Day.  The day we were there $1 hot dogs.  Lunch is served.  There was a Carousal -pass-, a train -pass-, and a children's play land -nice.  There was a feel station where you stick your hand into a wooden box, feel an object, and try and guess what it is.  It was really cool although it caused squeamish me, to hurt myself.  I"ll spare you the details.  Overall a fun time.



From Madison we headed on over to the Wisconsin Dells.  Summed up this is the coolest place in Wisconsin to be, one of the coolest places ever, and hands down tons of family fun.  I plan to take the family back.  We spent two days there, but I could easily spend a full week there.  There were several huge resorts, but we chose to stay at Chula Vista.  It was perfect for our family.  We never left the resort it was so stocked except to head to the drive in movie to see a double feature of Captain America and Transformers 3.  Our kids first drive in theater was a success.  Note:  bring bug spray in the future.  Although they sold it there so that saved us.  As you can imagine crazy price.  We gorged on popcorn, nachos, pretzel dogs, fries, and other very unhealthy but happy food.  By the end Bella, Kody, Issac, and I were asleep on the blanket laid on the ground in front of the car, while Travis and Wyatt crazily stayed up till 1:30 to see every exciting minute.  A little friendly wrestling before the movie started.
As for Lost Rios, the main water park at our resort, well that was 120,000 square feet of pure bliss for our aquatic family. Tons of water slides, rides, wave pools, beaches, play lands, spray guns, lazy rivers, etc...Seriously we spent seven hours straight one day playing. And I think the kids could have easily spent another three. The resort boasted four restaurants, we ate at the Mexican one - mediocre to poor. But I'll take Mexican when I can get it. Other activities offered that we couldn't escape the water heaven to participate in were the Dells Ducks Boat Tours, Speed Boat Tours, Horse Riding, Trail Hiking, seriously research The Dells online. I can't begin to do it justice. Our resort alone boasted one of the best buffets I've ever seen, think Vegas - perhaps better and cheaper, there was an arcade bigger than an in Lancaster County, with your stay you got a movie card pass to take down to the video kiosk(think Redbox) and get unlimited rentals during your stay, but only one video at a time. There was a bowling alley seriously it was awesome. Words fail me. So here are some pics, but really I took so few, because I was not about to be left out of the fun.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Michigan

In our fifty state exploration STOP - for those who don't know our family is trying to visit all 50 states.  Each year for summer vacation we explore new ones.  Our progress after this year 47/50 for Travis and I, the kids, depending on the kid, are around 34/50.  RESTART we went to Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.  What is there to do you ask?  Well I had no idea either.  That is half the fun of this journey, exploring the unknown.  So after some Internet searching, some Facebook questioning, and a whole lot of friend asking I planned a fun packed vacation.  We went to at least two cities in each state to give us a more well rounded and accurate feel of what each has to offer.  Here starts the breakdown.

Michigan boasts cheap McDonald's food.  Yes imagine my surprise and downright Golden Arch delight to find a 50 piece Nugget Value Meal that includes two fries and two drinks for the bargain price of $14.99.  Being a family of 6 we added one more fry and one more drink to round out the meal.  Family of six dining out for under $20.  I love it.  Random opinion:  If that 50 piece Value Meal is intended for two people, oh my yikes - that is a flaming travesty.  And I love McDonald's, but I assure you - that's wrong.














Michigan is also home to Ann Arbor - home of the Wolverines and University of Michigan.  Hey it's exciting if you are a college football fan.    As previously mentioned it houses a great Hands On Museum.  Also the weekend we were there it had what I think must be one of the nation's biggest art fairs, which was great including these guys rapping - may I suggest that they were not the next Eminem or Jay Z.  It also has a great looking, cool room colors art deco style Motel 6 that reeks of smoke and will stink your vacation clothes to high heaven for the next week.  Hey bittersweet but still fun.

video
Michigan is also home to Muskegon, a great beach city on Lake Michigan.  So huge it feels like the ocean.  I had heard this, I assure you it is true.  Water as far as the eye can see, a la ocean.  Muskegon itself feels like a dying town, fairly run down, a contestant for the craziest streets and intersections I have ever seen -although the other northern Midwest states vied for the title - it housed perhaps one of the most amusing restaurants I had ever seen a Chinese/Steak House.  Although the food was pretty abysmal on the Chinese side, the steak was delicious and the desserts amazing.  And the owner, a little Asian man, was very nice and super sweet to the kids making sure they got lots of free candy, gum, and lollipops on the way out.  As for the beaches so raved about - they are great.  Seriously the first day beach was perhaps the nicest I've ever been to for kids, not too cold - as we had been warned they would be - waves just the perfect side, shallow water that went out forever, pretty clear water, and just the perfect crowd size.  But the next day further down to the Pere Marquette Beach, named one of the "Greenest" in America, was way below expectations, algae galore as it can't be seaweed, a bit of a fishy stench, weird brown water and next to no waves.  But at the back side of the beach are children's play areas, food shacks, and bathrooms.  This town also housed the USS Silverside, a WWII submarine that boasts more kills etc... of any WWII sub left.  You can get on and tour it as well as visit the museum and get on a Coast Guard ship.  You can see life size torpedoes and climb in the hatching tubes.  Note: Travis checked to make sure I couldn't close this on him before he climbed in.  The other tourists were hysterical.  Can you tell we love pranks in our family?




















Michigan is also home to Grand Haven, 10-15 miles south of Muskegon.  It was a great beach city but boosting more tourism, newer updates and additions, and many more evening entertainment options.  It is still great for kids and if I were to do it again or recommend a place for families it is here that I would send you.  Evening light shows over the water, a great downtown strip for shopping, eating, and boardwalking where I saw an awe inspiring collection of yachts that were impressive in both their size, numbers, and additional boat features.  These were just a few of the draws. 














Overall Michigan was a pleasant surprise and very entertaining.  Kudos for superseding my expectations.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Preach It

For a plethora of years my family has been telling the world how we are hot blooded.  Yes super hot.  Very hot, the hot always kind of hot.  Most of my family has some type of sweating disorder I'm convinced.  It can be the winter and in the single digits but enter most any of our master bedrooms and you would find a window open.  We like our cars cool, our homes cold, and night time sleeping temperature down right fridgid.  My worst college experience involved complaints about my always having to have it cold.  I'll spare you the story and drama.  I myself try to forget it most times.  But I digress.

Well imagine my feeling of vindication to find this little exhibit at the Hands On Museum in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  It's an infra red camera set up.  And the big screen tv colors your heat output as well as giving a digital read out of temperature on the cross section.  Let me percolate the data for you.  The center of Travis's head radiates 89.8 degrees Farenheit of warmth.  The center of my head is radiating 92.1 F.  Yes that's 2.5 degrees warmer.  And Travis after seeing it thought maybe I had captured some weird spike.  We tested it several more times and my average was even warmer by almost a half a degree.  The conclusion I may very well be a werewolf.  I'll have to study the data further.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer

My house is filthy, my kids are dirty, and each of my kids has some sort of physical ailment.  I have been telling myself I am not sick for two days now.  But we are having the best summer ever and we're not about to slow down just because our bodies' immune systems can't keep up.  It's almost 9:30pm and bedtime is no where in sight.  We are still packing in every little last activity before the school year starts.  Wish us luck.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Jolly

So when I stumbled across this picture in one of my friend's facebook accounts I was the one feeling rather jolly.  Actually my stomach hurt from laughing so hard.

I don't know what I find most awkward about this picture: 
Santa's very badly spray painted beard and eyebrows
His girly bow on his head
His just a little too low on hand on her hip
His immense amount of makeup or paint on his face.
Is Santa drunk?   And still I can't stop laughing.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Challenge

Many of my blogging friends this year participated in an A to Z reading challenge.  Read one book starting with each letter of the alphabet.  Exceptions being that "X" need only be in the title.  Although I didn't want to commit to anything, I love the joy of reading, and didn't want to rob it by making it seem like work.

I thought I would keep track to see if I could do it just using my natural reading habits.  Note:  just read lots and lots, everything and anything.  By June I had read a book for every letter but three, E, U, and Z.  So being that close I went to my local library in search of books to meet this criteria, was pleasantly surprised, and finished.

And here I am just getting around to posting about it.  An accomplishment - perhaps.  Fun - definitely.  I love the world I enter when I read.  And let's be honest for me it is about the fun.  Attached is my list of books.  I will not be claiming any literary excellence only pure delight every step of the way.

A: Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
B: The Book of Tomorrow; Cecelia Ahern
C: A Comfortable Wife; Stephanie Laurens
D: The Distant Hours; Kate Morton
E: The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite; Kessler
F: Frommer’s 500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up; Frommers
G: The Great Gatsby; F. Scott Fitzgerald
H: Handle With Care; Jodi Picoult
I: It Had to be You; Susan Elizabeth Phillips
J: Just One Taste; Louisa Edwards
K: Kiss Me If You Can; Carly Phillips
L: Love Me If You Dare: Carly Phillips
M: Matched; Ally Condie
N: Nobody’s Baby But Mine; Susan Elizabeth Phillips
O: Oak Bluffs; Joan Early
P: The Postmistress; Sarah Blake
Q: The Quality Time Almanac: A sourcebook of ideas and activities for parents and kids; S. Adams Sullivan
R: Ready, Set, Play: Parents and Children Bonding Through Sports; Mark Schlereth
S: The Self Esteem Trap: Raising Young, Confident, and Compassionate Kids in an Age of Self Importance; Polly Eisendrath
T: Ten Stupid Things Women Do To Mess Up Their Lives; Laura Schlessinger
U: Under His Skin; Linda Miller, Carla Neggers, Lori Foster
V: The Virgin of Small Plains; Nancy Pickard
W: The Well and The Mine; Gin Phillips
X: Why Men Don’t Have a Clue and Women Always Need More Shoes: The Ultimate Guide to the Opposite Se(X); Barbara Pease
Y: The Yuletide Engagement; Carole Mortimer
Z: The Zookeeper’s Wife: Diane Acherman

For ideas of what I'd actually recommend reading well you would just have to check out my "goodreads" account.  And for those readers out there, happy summer reading!