Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cabin Camping in Wisconsin

Though I never had the chance to camp as a child, when I was a teenager, I worked for the Cub Scouts as a day camp counselor. Joining the Explorer Boy Scout Troop (a requirement of being a counselor) meant I got the chance to go on co-ed camping trips and have lots of outdoor time. Wanting Henry and Nick to learn more about being outdoors, but not quite ready to try tent camping yet, my friend Lynn and I decided to try cabin camping at Jellystone Park in Caledonia, Wisconsin. I brought my two sons and she brought her son, Aidan.

Nick got to know those stairs well. He served many a time out perched on that bottom stair.

We decided to rent a "Boo Boo Basic Cabin," and it saved us quite a bit of money, compared to a hotel. This cabin came with a front porch, two rooms, a picnic table, and our own fire pit. We brought in all of our own food, and I made breakfasts on our electric skillet out on the porch.

See our bracelets? We had to wear them the entire time. Henry kept taking his off.

It was a ton of work to prepare and bring enough food, utensils, and cooking equipment for five people for four days, but it was very different and fun. The hardest part for me was not having running water. Cooking outside was actually enjoyable. I think bacon tastes better when it is cooked outside.

The kids adored our little cabin, and they slept well every night. Nick, Henry, and Aidan had their own bedroom with a bunk bed plus a twin bed. They liked it so much that they got rather attached and wanted to go back to "our cabin" even after we had checked out.

Our cabin was very small, with only the bedroom and a main room with a queen-sized bed and a refrigerator. We had electricity and heat/AC but no running water. It was rustic enough for me and much roomier than a tent.

I bought Nick and Henry their own flashlights and sleeping bags just for this trip, and they loved sleeping in the sleeping bags so much they didn't want to stop sleeping in them when we got back home!

Seeing as this was mid-July, you wouldn't think we would've needed the heat and all the blankets, but it was so cold that first night we had to turn on the heat! This summer's weather has been weird and cold compared to most. For the purposes of campfires and having to walk to the bathrooms, though, cooler weather was actually quite convenient.

Henry looks so innocent in this picture, but the next morning he snuck a 3-pack of sweet peppers into the bedroom and smashed them all against the walls and floors. 

I think the hardest part of cabin camping was not having running water. There was a small hose attachment outside, but it was hard to use for anything other than washing my hands. I didn't realize until this trip how many times I wash my hands each day!  It was especially a pain when cooking on the fire.

We also figured out that it was easier to brush our teeth in the woods with a bottle of water rather than wait for a free sink in the communal bathrooms. My friend Lynn thought it was funny when we brushed our teeth outside the first night, so she snapped this picture of us. I returned the favor the next day!

I was so proud of myself for making my very first campfire. Let's not discuss how many paper towels and tiny sticks I used. I also won't mention how many times the fire went out before it got going. For a first effort, it wasn't too bad.   :)

I made this fire all by myself! See the foil packets cooking on top? This method worked pretty well.

Speaking of fires, this aspect of camping probably made me the most nervous. Although I'm totally a feminist, I'm also somewhat lazy about the more challenging aspects of camping, and I have no problem letting a guy make the fire for me. When I was in scouting in high school, there were lots of guys around who'd been camping their whole lives. They were the kind of guys who wanted to show off for us ladies and make fires literally from piles of sticks with no matches. I remember they'd try to one-up each other over who could make a fire more quickly.

Anyhow, the end result was that though I'd been camping plenty of times, I had never actually made or cooked over a fire. The first night I was rather, um, irritated. I kicked the fire pit a few times and said some choice words every time the flames started to go out. We still managed to roast marshmallows and have some yummy s'mores, though!

I ended up bringing mostly foil packet meals, and I'm so glad I chose to cook this way. I do not think I could have successfully cooked on open flames without the foil packets. I made beef/mushroom/corn quesadillas one night and sausage with green beans and potatoes the other night. Eating outside for every meal was great for cleanups! The birds liked our outdoor eating, too.

Our campground had tons of ameneties, including an on-site water park, a jumping pillow, and a park. In retrospect, we probably could've spent most of our time on the campground. Tomorrow I'll write more about the super-cool water park and post some mid-air jumping pictures that show what happen when teenagers get onto the jumping pillow and fling my boys into the air. We had such a magnificent time that I know I'm going to try cabin camping again.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Fun at the Splashpad

Even though this summer has been cooler than most, we've tried to give Nick and Henry lots of chances for water play. We visited the Splashpad in Rosemont by my dad and stepmom's house recently, giving the boys the chance to run through the water and get wet, over and over again.

Grandpa Mike helped them figure out how to get some of the cooler water features to turn on. The railroad crossing sign has buttons that make the mushroom and the buckets work.

Since it was a cooler day, we got out of the water to dry off and warm up. Henry excels at snuggling, especially when he's on Grandpa Mike's lap.

Henry's favorite part was the buckets, which would fill with water and then overflow. He did this over and over again. Nick liked it, too. The boys kept trying to figure out the pattern so they could stand under a bucket while it dumped.

I managed to snap this picture of Henry while water was falling down. I get about one good picture in every seven hundred, so I was rather proud of this one.

Henry didn't seem to care how cold he got or how much he shivered--he just wanted to get wet!

We had to force Henry to come out of the water and warm up a few times because he was shivering so hard. Poor guy.


Nick kept wondering why different features weren't turning on when he wanted to, so he went up to ask the attendant what to do. My boy is not shy, that's for sure!

We had a picnic (with yummy pizza) and time to play at the park, which was huge and really fun for the boys. Pardon my inferior photography skills. It's hard to take cute pictures of boys when they're stuffing their faces with cheese-its.

Nick's favorite feature was the mushroom that rained. He kept trying to turn it on.

There's something wonderful about relaxing in the sun while your children run, safely, in an enclosed water play area where they cannot drown. I love summertime precisely because of these kinds of moments.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Weekend Visit

Last weekend we went to see Greg's dad and stepmom, and they were kind enough to let us stay overnight. We had a great time, and the boys got to spend time with their aunts and uncles as well.

Uncle Jay gave Henry and Nick lessons on the piano. Their verdict? Pianos can make a lot of noise. They both love music, though, so I suppose I'll have to start them on some sort of instrument.

Both boys got a kick out of these doggie corn holders. "Look!" said Henry. "It's a doggie butt!" He was right, too. One side is the head and the other side the rear.

Nick has a real thing for corn on the cob. He ended up eating all of his and most of Henry's.

Henry really liked the two doggies who live at Grandma Linda and Grandpa Jay's house. I'm not sure they wholly approved of Henry, though. Especially after he started sneaking in and out of their doggie door!

Maybe I need one of these on my screen door so they'll stop slamming it as they go in and out. . . It's an idea, anyway. If the doggies were unsure about Henry (and Nick, too), they were crystal clear about Greg. He makes an excellent napping buddy.

We had a nice, overall relaxing weekend. I wish I'd taken more pictures, but I did get this one of Henry, watching over his cousin Sophie with a watchful eye. "I am watching the baby to make sure she's okay!" he declared.

Isn't she just the cutest thing? 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Playing Outside in the Summertime

One of my favorite childhood memories is of playing outside for hours all summer with kids in the neighborhood. We made up our own games, rode our bikes up and down the sidewalk and over into the rosebushes, and even kicked our shoes onto the roof one time. I've been trying to give Henry and Nick lots of unstructured outside play this summer.

Henry wanted to climb the tree AND tear off the leaves, one by one. This is his method, and it kept him occupied happily for at least a half hour.

Nick told some of the boys in the neighborhood that he can ride a skateboard as good as Marty McFly. They brought a skateboard over for him to try. I warned them that Nick has never been on a skateboard, but I have to give him credit--he tried! He told all the kids he could hold on to a truck like Marty, but I told him he WOULD NOT be doing that.

Nick managed to ride maybe a foot at a time, very slowly. 

Henry tried, too, and actually managed to ride the thing a few feet. Not too bad for a three-year-old!

Henry spent a good deal of time driving around his little car.

I enjoyed sitting on a blanket, watching the boys play and occasionally chatting with them. Mostly I was able to just relax with a book. Then the kitties came. . .

We were playing out on the side lawn when our neighbors came over with two of the kittens they're fostering. I was nervous at first that they wouldn't be gentle enough, but both boys did pretty well with these tiny, fearless little balls of fluff.

As they get older, the boys are being slightly more gentle with animals. Don't get me wrong, they still need lots of reminders, but I definitely see improvements.

Did you know they make strollers for kittens? Yup.

Nick did not mind at all this kitty climbing on his head!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Henry's 3rd Birthday Party

We did have a birthday party for Henry this year, but it was a few weeks after his birthday. He certainly didn't seem to mind--it just stretches out the fun.

Every little boy likes presents, but Henry got some awesome cards this year. One of them even had talking Star Wars robots. I think he was waiting to see if all the cards would talk.

Henry got some pretty awesome presents, including a Darth Vader doll and a hoodie, which I am wearing in this picture.

Another one of Henry's presents was this very cool dragon. He even let his new dragon friend try on his birthday hat.

Henry also got this really weird and cool balloon that had little feet and a face. Auntie Mandy liked playing with it, too.

Henry had fun opening presents and giving hugs, but his favorite part was when everyone sang to him. Check it out--my boy can blow out his own candles now! He's been working on this all year, since his surgery.  :)


Henry was very enthusiastic about his cupcakes. Let's just say much sugar was eaten by all, but no one enjoyed it as much as the birthday boy.

Henry chose a s'more cupcake. Yum.

We had lots of visitors to wish Henry a happy birthday, and he got a chance to snuggle with many of them.

Birthday parties are one time where Nick and Henry get to see all of their grandparents at one time (four grandmas, three grandpas, and one great-grandma). The boys tried to spend some time with each of them.

That's a water gun Nick's playing with. He loves pretending to shoot water at everyone.

Strangely enough, many of the people who attended this party happened to wear turquoise. This was not a prearranged thing, just an odd coincidence. So we took a picture.

Birthday parties involve a lot of work and preparation, but the smile on Henry's face was worth all the hard work. Or maybe amnesia just sets in during the time between birthday parties, and I only remember the good parts. I'm okay with that.  :)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July 2014!

This year, we celebrated by going to see fireworks in Plainfield. I did the matching shirt thing this year, though I don't think Greg approved.

Grandma Toni joined us for the evening. We started out by having dinner in Downtown Plainfield, at a place called Hop Scotch and Vine.

The soft pretzels were pretty yummy, and the elderly folks (drinking huge glasses of wine) sitting at the table next to us were way louder than the kids. I hope I'm that jolly if I make it to a ripe old age.

Henry is getting more into the spirit of pictures lately, and actually smiling. So is Greg. Can you tell he loves that t-shirt I made him wear?

After dinner, we walked out to the high school to claim a fireworks-watching spot. Henry was thrilled about the prospect of fireworks.

I found a Groupon a couple of days ago for a place called Nothing Bundt Cakes. They sell the yummiest miniature bundt cakes, and I brought some with us for dessert.

There's nothing like miniature bundt cakes before fireworks.

When we got down to the high school field, we found a "touch-a-truck" event where the kids could sit in and climb on ambulances, police cars, construction vehicles, and firetrucks.

Nicholas loved this bus, as evidenced by his excited cheers and shrieks.

Nick and Henry tried the door to every unoccupied vehicle they could find. I am still not sure if they were supposed to be sitting inside this police car.

They especially liked this construction vehicle.

Nick even did a happy dance while he was up there.

He was happy, in fact, until it was time to get down. Then he got really scared. I guess it was a little high up.

When it started to get dark, I was very glad I'd remembered to pick up some $2 glow sticks at the Five Below. All of the glowing toys they were selling were super-expensive.

The fireworks were really neat, but we didn't get home until nearly 11 o'clock. Something about that big of a crowd results in a traffic jam like no other.  It was fun, though, and the boys got to stay up WAY past their bedtime.