Monday, December 12, 2016

Wisconsin Dell's

Last year, our children decided to put their Christmas money together and use it for something that would be fun for the whole family. Their first idea was to install a DVD player in our minivan. Well, after a few phone calls, we discovered that the cost would be more than $2,000, much more than their combined Christmas money, even if Juan & I matched their contribution. And, the kids agreed that having a DVD player in the van wasn't worth that much anyway.

The next idea was to stay at Grand Bear Lodge in Utica, IL. Some friends had invited us to stay with them in the spring, and we all had a great time. Well, their money would get us 1 night in a regular hotel room, with 1 day at the indoor water park. With our friends, we had stayed in a vacation villa, and enjoyed the water park and adventure center, so the comparison wasn't good enough for the kids.

Papi and I were proud (and a bit surprised) at the kids' desire to wait for the right opportunity to spend their money. There were a few times throughout the year that one or another would consider pulling their portion for a more immediate purchase, but they ended up being patient and waiting.

This fall, I saw a post in one of the local home school groups on FB that someone had a timeshare at Wisconsin Dell's to rent out. The cost was just less than our children's saved Christmas money. So, first Papi checked to see if he could get the time off work. Once his time off was confirmed, we checked, and the timeshare was still available. So, then we talked with the kids. They all agreed that a 2 bedroom, 2 bath, apartment, with a kitchen and living room, plus 3 indoor water parks, for 4 days/3 nights was definitely worth their Christmas money. So, nearly a full year after they received these gifts of money, we enjoyed a wonderful family vacation.

Of course, there were a few hiccups along the way, just to make things interesting. JL got pink eye the weekend before our trip. Took her in to the pediatrician Monday morning while Papi packed the van, and the doctor said she not only had double pink eye (an uncommon, though not concerning version of it, at that) but she also had a double ear infection. So, our trip was delayed a bit for her appointment and while we waited for her medications. (The doctor did say she was free to go swimming.) While JL got better throughout our trip, JA got sick. She first got the ear infection, and the day we headed home, got the pink eye, too.

Another funny story is how we set off the smoke alarm while making dinner. I deglazed a pan with broth, and the steam that rose up set off the alarm. The front desk called to see if we were okay, and while Papi talked to them and followed their instructions (turn on stove vent, open all windows) I debated evacuating the kids and checked to see if the alarm was going off in the hallway. I didn't know at first that the steam caused the alarm to go off because it wasn't an immediate reaction. The alarm was only going off in our little apartment, and no one was evacuating. After a few minutes the alarm stopped and all was well.

The first day we went to both nearby water parks (less than a 10 minute walk, indoors the whole time) in the morning and again in the evening, with lunch, naps, and dinner in between. During nap time, JT and Papi played Bingo in the lobby, and JT won a gift card for the arcade, which he shared with the family. One water park has a wave pool and a young child area. The other has water slides, a lazy river, a small young child area, and a hot tub.

All children under 48"were required to wear a life jacket at all times. JT chose to wear one in the wave pool, but not in the shallow areas, since he is right at 48". :)

The second day, we went to the 3rd water park, which we could access via a free shuttle service. It was about a 10 minute drive. We made sure to bring a change of clothes, because the temperature was about 20, and that's a bit cold for being outside after swimming. Even so, it was after this that JA's ears began to hurt. :(

After swimming, waiting for the shuttle to bring us back.
Papi took JT and JMC out walking each afternoon, waiting for JL to fall alseep. If she's still awake, she doesn't let JMC take a nap. They were so worn out after a couple hours' of swimming each morning, that they both napped each day we were there (JA and Mami took naps, too!)

We didn't play this game, but were impressed with the size of it. We did see another family play it several times, and they never won.

The evening that JA was sick, JT and I went swimming on our own, and Papi stayed back with JA, JMC, & JL watching a movie.  JT took me on a double tube water slide, and I introduced him to the hot tub. After I rested for a bit, we went on the water slide again, and then back to the hot tub. Before we knew it, we'd been there at the park for an hour! 
The last morning, the kids decided to use their leftover Christmas money to buy souvenirs and play some more at the arcade. It was cute watching them each pick out a souvenir.

This is a video game that involves shooting giant spiders. 

JA made quite a few baskets!

Baby-wearing at it's finest. :)

Car is loaded up, we're all checked out, and ready to drive home after a quick stop at a local restaurant.

We didn't go here, but it was right next to where we stayed, and made us think of one of our nieces. 

We did stop here before leaving the Dell's. Everything here is plant-based (vegan), so we enjoyed key lime and chocolate espresso "cheese" cakes, and Papi had a banana split. We also had hummus, and milk steamers. Everything was delicious, and the people were very friendly. This is the only time we ate out while in Wisconsin, and it was definitely worth it.

JA turns 12!

At breakfast, she reminded me that in a year she'll be 13, and only 2 years later she'll be 15!

This year, JA had a complete menu planned for the day, and it wasn't until the night before that she had any ideas of activities, her thoughts had been centered on the yummy food she wanted. :) So, we had birthday pancakes, atole de elote, Red Robin for lunch, shrimp scampi for dinner, and pumpkin pie for dessert. For fun, we went to a local nature preserve, and Grandma, JA, and I went for pedicures. All in all, a great day!

Saturday, December 10, 2016


This fall, JT began learning to play the viola through the String Project at our local university. For 10 weeks, he met each week with the whole orchestra (all beginners in 3rd or 4th grades) and also in a small group of just viola students. The classes are led by a university professor and university students studied to become music teachers. Last night, they had their first concert. Here are a few of their songs:

Swim Team

(Originally written September, 2016. Update below.)
This summer, the boys participated in swim team for the first time. JMC was invited to join the team by his swimming teacher, and JT asked to join the team with his brother. At the beginning of the summer, they had each had 2 semesters of lessons, and though comfortable in the water, neither one could actually swim.

By the end of the first week, JT could swim the backstroke an entire length of the pool (25 yards)! It took JMC several more weeks, and he still prefers lessons and practices (when his teacher is in the water with him) to meets when he is on his own. By the end of the season (after about 6 weeks) JT could swim freestyle, backstroke, and breast stroke; JMC could swim freestyle about 15 yards.

Swim lessons begin up again this week, and I'm excited to see how much they'll continue to improve. JA takes swim lessons, too, and we hope that she'll be able to join the swim team next summer as well.

Update: JA, JT, & JMC all participated in swim lessons this fall, and the most improved was JA! She is now excited to try swim team next summer. Lessons begin again in February, and I'm sure they will all continue to improve. :)