Sunday, February 28, 2016
Talk about a slower pace of life and a relaxing stop...Iowa would be this place! Iowa was exactly what you would picture...nothing as far as you can see! I am not kidding, you could see for miles as there is nothing obstructing the view and there was nothing but windmills and farmland. The kids and I learned that 90% of the land in Iowa is farmland...I find that number to be crazy high! I get that it is a farming state, but 90%?!?! That's insane! We anchored ourselves outside of Ames, one of the bigger cities in Iowa and a total college town. We spent a day poking around the city and exploring the college...what a beautiful day we picked! 74 degrees in the middle of Winter in Iowa is unheard of and we got to enjoy just that!
Our only "adventure" in Iowa turned out to be quite the interesting one! I found that there was a kaleidoscope factory in Pocahontas, Iowa...about 90 minutes from where we were. This small town is literally a blink and you missed it kind of place. One main street with about a half dozen shops and businesses. The kids and I ventured off for a day of fun and exploring. Imagine my surprise when Leonard (the builder and 'factory' owner) ended up being a member of Mensa! To say this man was crazy smart is an understatement! He gave the boys and I the most fascinating Physics, Math and Science lesson for the better part of an hour! He then had the boys make their own kaleidoscopes which made the day even more fun! The BEST part of the day came when Leonard asked the boys if they wanted to do the daily news and weather report for the town. What fun this was! The kids made the report 'live'-on air' and were delighted to get to watch it later on the Internet! After spending almost three hours with Leonard, we hit the local bowling alley for pizza and bowling with the entire place to ourselves! Iowa...for as small and unoccupied as you are you were definitely a success!
Sunday, February 21, 2016
Another fun find in the middle of Winter was the indoor water park, conveniently right across the street from the mall. They are home to the tallest indoor family raft ride and big surprise my people wouldn't let me miss that fun ;) The extra fun part of this day came when I became the Mom kids (not just my own) were impressed by. This water park was home to a flow-rider (a surfing machine). My crew is big fans of these, having spent lots of time on them at Schlitterbahn and on cruises we have been on. Imagine my surprise and horror when Luke begged Sweetie Pie to to try it too. Brian and Matt burst out laughing at the thought so that was all motivation I needed! I threw on some shorts, tucked my swimsuit into them (no need to show the innocent people of Minnesota what is lurking under that!) and waddled my way (like the penguin I now resembled!) to the line. After watching multiple people wipe out and go flying, I was seriously reconsidering this plan but my guys were now fully invested in having their Mom try this death trap! I took my turn like a champ...I had water spraying down my top and up my butt, could barely see anything but my wonderful husband laughing and videotaping me, but I managed to actually stay on my board and impress my kids...WIN for Mom!
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Dear friends of ours are from Wisconsin and have told us about all of the neat things to do there. Top that with all of the specials we have seen on the Travel Channel featuring Wisconsin Dells and the mere fact that they are the home of cheese curds (best food on planet!) and this was a much anticipated stop on our trip for everyone!
I found a killer deal, and by killer I mean seriously unheard price for all of the fun we had in Wisconsin! Fresh off our stay in a hotel for a week, we checked into yet another one! Well the kids and I did. Craig stayed with the RV since it was in the negatives outside...(yes you read that right!!!) and we had to keep it plugged in or chance big problems. Somehow I drew the short straw that entailed late nights in a water park, showering 3 kids at 11pm and fighting over bedtimes, the tv show we watched and "I'm hungry again" while Craig got to return to the RV for peaceful nights of popcorn, movies and a place to himself! He casually strolled in every morning after a good nights sleep while I was in the midst of breakfast, the endless fight over brushing teeth and getting everyone ready!
Mt. Olympus is a kids paradise. They have a 40 slide outdoor waterpark (sadly closed for season), a full outdoor theme park (again closed for season), an indoor waterpark, an indoor theme park and a ski/tubing mountain!!! To say we had fun here is an understatement!!! Unlimited bumper cars was the hit of the indoor theme park, we closed down the waterpark two different nights and the highlight was skiing! For kids that have pretty much tried everything, skiing was the one big thing they haven't done! They were so excited to give it a try (I was dreading it as I knew they were gonna love it and see many cold trips in my future!). Having now had both ankles fully reconstructed, I have left my skiing days in the past and was happily a cheerleader, picture taker, hot chocolate runner and kid lifter all day :) Craig loves to ski and was so excited to get his guys on the mountain with him. They all took to it immediately. Matt and Luke skiied while Brian snowboarded. You would've thought they had all done it before cause these boys just took off down the mountain! I had to close my eyes in fear by the end of the day as these 3 boys are fearless...Luke particularly terrifies me as not only is he fearless, he is 8 year old stupid! Doesn't even cross his mind that he could get hurt...ugh! These three are gonna make me gray and drunk by the time they leave for college :) They skiied for 8 straight hours and I see some sore little people in our future!
Our last day in Wisconsin Craig had to work so the kids and I made our way back to the mountain for tubing! How Craig keeps managing to weasel his way out of the activities that involve complete exhaustion is beyond me?!?!?! The good news is Mt. Olympus has a tube rope so you can be slightly lazier :) We had an absolute blast flying down their 6 tube runs and the kids even convinced me that tying all our tubes together was a good idea as I flew down the chute backwards with the 3 of them laughing like fools:)
Favorite moment of Wisconsin has got to be the morning after skiing. I have 3 kids beyond unconscious thanks to the full day of skiing. I get a phone call waking me up at 8am from the RV service center 45 minutes away that they can get Craig in at 9:30am. (Let me backtrack for a minute...So after getting RV fixed and leaving it for 6 days, they managed to return it to us with the water pumps not working meaning no running water. We tried stopping to get this addressed on our drive to Wisconsin but the service center had sent their staff home early due to bad weather. We even went as far as calling Forest River for an emergency call that night and they sent us the biggest jok on the planet...took our $100 fee for coming out, looked at RV and said "I can't fix this, I can't access that panel" (I kid you not...these things only happen to us!) We could not all return to RV with this still broke and getting it fixed was somewhat of an emergency.) Back to story...so I get this call and the man says "I couldn't get ahold of your husband" (my first thought was "I;m going to kill him when I do!" I assure this man that I will get ahold of Craig and he will be there with RV. Thirteen phone calls later and 10 text messages later, I have determined that Craig is asleep with his phone off! I literally was ready to kill him at this point as I got to wake up 3 sleeping kids, who are completely exhausted, and drag them into the snowing 6 degree weather to drive 15 minutes to wake up sleeping beauty! Wake up was as hideous as you could imagine...Luke was sobbing, Brian was furious and Matt was glaring at me. I pile the kids into the car, make our way into traffic to FINALLY GET A CALL FROM CRAIG! He is laughing, telling me he is sorry he fell asleep with phone in airplane mode. Yea...cause that makes up for my morning so far! I turn car around, pile kids back into hotel, they climb back into their beds and get all snuggly (I was blessed with excellent sleepers!) only to have my phone ring again! Craig was calling to inform me that he had left his Jeep keys with me when we dropped him off last night and yes, the RV keys were on that ring as well!!! (I cannot make this stuff up!) You guessed it...I got to get kids out of bed for a second time, drag them back into snow and drive the keys to my "dear husband". We finally make it back to the hotel to get dressed at this point and find that we have managed to lock ourselves out of our room. I got to finish my morning with a trip to the lobby, dressed in my pajamas with sneakers, topped off with my uncombed bed head to get a replacement key! Yep...I am living the dream people!!!
Saturday, February 13, 2016
We ended up spending a great deal of time in Indiana, not originally planned :) We started off in Indianapolis and had so much fun! We went to America's largest Children's Museum and spent a whole day exploring the endless floors and rooms. The kids and I found a super fun pool, complete with a rock wall over the water that we couldn't get enough of! Funny thing is we saw walls like this online last year and they were dying to play on one in real life...who knew we'd stumble on it in Indiana?!?! Craig and I took the kids for a tour of NCAA Hall of Champions, an interactive hall of fame museum dedicated to all things NCAA. Yep...add another Hall of Fame to our list for this trip :) Seriously...we have made a whole chunk of trip out of theme parks and halls of fame! We also took the kids on a tour of true Indianapolis...racing. It worked out for us that we have a neat connection to this...Aunt Christy. Her Papa is the one and only A.J. Foyt! The boys love this celebrity connection and A.J. is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. We so enjoyed getting to spend some time getting to see how this city has so much in his honor!
Next stop in Indiana...South Bend. Just outside of South Bend is a little city known as Elkhart. Elkhart is home of all things RV. 7 of the 10 RV manufacturers are located there, Forest River (our RV) being one of them. We have had an ongoing punch list of repairs we needed (yes, some we caused ourselves...ugh!) and the easiest way to get everything fixed under warranty was to come to their factory. What a giant pain this was...we moved into the Hampton Inn for a week. When you are living and driving in your home, this becomes more of a pain as I literally had to unload everything I thought we might need in a week's time into a hotel room. Top this off with getting a massive snowstorm while we were there and our room was full to the brim with everything from swimsuits to sleds! We made good use of our time in this part of the country (also right on the Michigan border!) with a behind the scenes tour of a chocolate factory, a trip to Notre Dame for Ash Wednesday Mass (such a beautiful church!!!), a visit to the Children's Health Museum for a day of fun learning about all things bodies, a quick stop at the biggest chocolate store and the coolest factory tour yet...our RV manufacturer!!! Seeing our RV built right before our eyes (seriously, it takes 8 hours from chassis to paint room!) was such a cool experience! We even learned where a few things were we didn't know about!!! All said and done, we spent more time in Indiana than we had originally planned but sure had a fun time doing it! Good news is our repairs our done and we are back in our home, happily on our way to our next stop...Wisconsin!
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Michigan was a quick "true visit" as we were literally staying on the border (see Indiana post!) and were able to visit multiple times (grocery store, shops, etc.). The kids and I made it our mission to do something fun in Michigan though and sledding it was! Of course we picked a bitter cold day, complete with snow to sled but still managed to have fun! The local park had a really neat setup with a small lodge and a giant tubing hill. Bummer...you had to trek your tubes up the hill yourself...no ropes. Fortunately for me I am raising true Texas gentleman who carried Mom's tube every time for her!!! A fun few hours with only one injury (poor Matt is rockin the nastiest elbow bruise I have seen in a long time!) made Michigan a success!
The biggest bummer came when a major life event happened...I'm talking this is my own personal version of turning 40! I seriously took this harder than any birthday! After 36 years of perfect vision, I had to get glasses.I have been struggling with my eyes for about a month. Seeing as it came out of the blue, I had myself convinced I had MS or a tumor. Good news is I am just insane and spend too much time googling my symptoms...bad news is I not only had to get glasses, I had to get bifocals! How the heck I went from nothing to bifocals is still baffling and I am now sporting glasses...ugh.
Saturday, February 6, 2016
We made it to Chicago! We could not have gotten luckier with the weather...45 degrees in February was more than we hoped for! We started off at Navy Piers for a day of fun! The kids loved being right on the water and had a blast at the maze, fun house and blaster games. We ended Navy Piers with an authentic (and delicious!) Chicago pizza :)
Next stop...the shops on Magnificent Mile. The kids particularly liked the Under Armour store with its interactive games on the top floor. We headed to Wrigley Field next and got to see one of the oldest, neatest stadiums. Seeing all the homes in the neighborhood surrounding the filled with bleachers on their roofs was the hit of this adventure! Our final stop was the Sears tower, now known as the Willis Tower. Craig, Matt and Luke took the elevator to the top of the Skydeck for an incredible and downright scary view of the city! Standing on the glass walkout ledge did not appeal to me or Brian so we safely waved from the ground at them :) Chicago...success!