Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Detour: Wisconsin Dells Day 3 - August 19

Sunday, August 18

After the frenzy of discussing every possible thing we could have done on Saturday, we decided to schedule our Sunday activities to try and get everything done.

We started by getting up at 7, which was a relief as our youngest was up again in the night. At 7:30 the hotel breakfast buffet opened, so we headed over on the beautiful but cold morning and once again our 3 year old was excited as there were more donuts! They were the mini store bought kind, but he still enjoyed them. My husband and I stuck to the sausage, bacon, and freshly made-to-order omelets.

After breakfast we got ready to go take photos at the Waterpark. This entailed having our little guy in his stroller so one of us could be in the catching zone for our big boy, and the other could be taking photos near our little guy. He had a lot of fun, which you can see in the photos. We even got him to try a second slide. He was so excited to be walking around the pool and up the stairs on his own. I would remind him to walk, and he would slow down and walk so exaggeratedly that I would crack up. After a bit we took him to other parts and brought our little guy into the water as well. We still had other plans for the day, so around 11 we convinced our big boy that it was time to leave.

After a quick shower and change, we went back downtown. We had originally planned to go eat lunch, but we weren't that hungry so instead we went straight to the dock so we could go on the boat tour. That was a small mistake as our big boy must have gotten hungry and of course I didn't bring snacks for him. There was a vending machine nearby but I hadn't brought any cash. A couple in front of us heard our boy whining and the lady asked if it was alright for her to buy him some snacks. So he got some chex mix and she got a new friend.

The boat tour was a beautiful 2.5 hour tour of the Dells, including two stopping points where we got up and walked through different areas. It was a little bit of a hassle with a stroller, but we got through it. If we do it again we'll wait until the boys are older and can walk on their own. We got some great photos, and videotaped the dog jumping to stand rock which is where the proof of the first shutter for a camera was taken. On the 20 minute ride back from the last stop, our big boy fell asleep in my lap just as my little guy woke up hungry at my feet (my husband was in a different row due to a packed boat). So I got to try and rock the little guy back to sleep while not waking up the big boy. Overall the boat ride was still worth it.

After the boat ride we were all hungry, so we went to Monk's at the Wilderness resort for an early dinner (it was around 4). It had good reviews, but it wasn't quite as tasty as I had hoped. I had the Cuban sandwich which wasn't very authentic, and my husband had the Reuben, which is now his second favorite version (1st is still Jason's Deli). We got the pasta kids meal for our big boy, and it took a while as he was VERY cranky after being woke up, but he enjoyed it once he tried it. We decided on the peanut butter pie for dessert, and that was magnificent.

We had originally planned on going to the International Crane Society for our walk in the evening, but we were exhausted, so just went back to the hotel to relax and download the photos. At 8:00 there was a clock show and story time in the lobby, so we headed there and our big boy seemed to enjoy it, although he was terrified of the big raccoon character (think friendly mascot-sized). Our little guy got cranky so I didn't get to see the clock show, but it seemed nice, if a bit outdated. Afterwards we decided to check out the gift shop and sweet shop in the lobby. We didn't buy any gifts, but did spend some money at the sweet shop for overpriced cereal for our big boy, overpriced watermelon and cantaloupe cups, and some wonderful pop. They have a machine that allows you to try different flavored of different pops (I think it said over 30 versions), so we tried coke zero with orange and coke zero with raspberry. The orange was definitely better, but it did cause us to stay up late due to the caffeine. We watched Lion King until our big boy fell asleep and then I went to bed while my husband surfed the Internet until the caffeine would let him sleep.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Detour: Wisconsin Dells Day 2, Aug 18

Day 2: Saturday August 18th

I had lots planned for Saturday, and due to our nearly 5 month old not liking the pack n play, we got up around 5:30am (not the first time I was up that night). We took our time getting ready, and headed to Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty shortly after 7. The platter style food serving wasn't great for our low carb diet, and we definitely went overboard as though we only got refills on the meat and eggs, we couldn't let the pancakes, donuts, and potatoes go to waste. Oh, and what donuts they were! Definitely homemade, and very delicious. My big boy kept going on about them, and when I let him have my phone so he would sit for a bit, he snapped about a dozen photos of his donuts! He also was very considerate of the mess and helped to clear off the table by giving a waitress behind us his milk carton when he was done- she thought he was adorable. After breakfast we took the necessary photos with Mr Paul Bunyan himself and then headed downtown for a while.

We are big fans of downtown Lake Geneva- full of quaint little shops that sell a variety of different items and overall give you the feeling that you are on a nice relaxing vacation. Well, Wisconsin Dells is not that. Every other shop was selling loud, fluorescent t-shirts. There were about 3 identical old time photo studios, 4-5 identical fudge shops, and the atmosphere was more like Vegas than Lake Geneva. We didn't actually go in to many of the shops as they didn't seem very child friendly, but we did stop by and get some sugar free taffy and fudge from one of the nicer looking fudge shops. We also stopped by the visitor center which was very child friendly- it had a little area with toys (mostly duplos) and it gave our big boy a place to play while I fed our little guy and my husband walked back to the car to pay for another 2 hours (did I mention that there is no free parking?). From the visitor center we stopped by a grocery store for a little better deal on some beverages, and then walked a little more to try and get in some of our 10,000 steps.

After experiencing downtown Wisconsin Dells, we were ready for a little more relaxing of a setting. I had heard great things about the Deer Park, so we headed on over and bought two packages of crackers to feed the deer (and goats and other critters). It was a blast seeing our timid big boy go from putting the crackers on the ground in front of the deer to holding Mommy's hand while feeding the deer, to letting the deer lick off of his hand and feeding two goats at once. He had a great time, as did the rest of us, but by the time we were done everyone was ready for a nap. The boys napped in the car on the way back to the hotel, and after resting a little bit we were off to the waterpark.

Day 2 of the waterpark went much better than Day 1. We got our big boy to try one of the kiddie waterslides, and his first ride down he got a little water over his head, spluttered, and then yelled "again"! He wasn't willing to try another slide, so we took turns catching him at the bottom of the slide and when I got tired from carrying our little guy we convinced him to go to another children's pool section where I could sit while his Papi watched him go down a less complex waterslide. We also tried the outdoor pool a bit, but that got cold and so after about 15 minutes we convinced him it was time to go have dinner.

After changing we drove to Buffalo Phil's, where trains can bring food to the table. We decided not to wait the 45 minutes for a train table, and I'm glad we did as the kids were not supposed to touch the trains, and I think we would have had a horrible time keeping our big boy from pulling it off the track. He got a kick out of watching the train move around the nearby tables, and the train that circled above the bar. The food was pretty good- we stuck with low carb wraps and salads, and afterwards we were too exhausted to go for an additional walk (plus it was getting dark as it was after 8pm) so we just went back to the hotel and relaxed in the room watching WALL-E until the kids passed out.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Detour: Wisconsin Dells Mini-cation Day 1 Aug 17

Since we still attempted to do our daily 10,000 steps, I'm going to take this opportunity to write out some memories from our fun mini-cation to Wisconsin Dells.

Our big boy is turning 3 on the 21st, so we decided that we'd take a small trip to celebrate. He has always liked the water, so since none of us had ever been to the Dells and it was only a 3 hour drive, we decided to give it a try.

Day 1: Friday
We left home right on time- around 8 am, so we arrived just after 11 and were able to check in and get into our room. Now we didn't tell them that we were trying to walk a lot, but yet they still happened to get us a room in the furthest corner of the hotel- I know it wasn't on purpose, but it actually did help us get in a few extra steps a day!

After getting settled in and having a quick sandwich wrap in our room, we walked the .5 mile across the parking lot to the outlet mall. We didn't buy anything, but it provided something to look at for some of our daily steps. We thought about getting Tigger and Pooh outfits for the boys for this year's Christmas photo, but since they didn't have the right size for our big boy, and we weren't sure what size our little boy will be in a couple of months, we walked away empty handed.

After getting back to the hotel, we tried out the waterpark. Unfortunately, while scoping out the different areas, we walked into a part with a GIANT bucket of water that slowly fills and then dumps with a very loud splash. It freaked out our big boy so much that he was in tears and kept asking to go back to the car, even when we had left that section and went outside. We gave up on trying to get him in the pool outside after a bit, but decided to try once more on a different part of the indoor park, and that area was a big success. It still took a while to get him to try even a little slide, but by the time we decided it was time to leave because we wanted food, he didn't want to go. We finally convinced him to say "bye water, see you soon!" and leave.

After convincing our big boy, we left the hotel to go find some dinner. One of the places I wanted to try was Sprecher's - home of one of my favorite Root Beers (plus they have a low-cal version). Since it was our reward weekend, we allowed ourselves a few more carbs than usual. We started with some of their different flavored bottled sodas. The Puma Kola - a honey/cinnamon flavored soda was especially interesting. We had Reuben bites for an appetizer- very good! Then my husband had some tasty ribs, and I decided to try a German dish that I always wanted to try- schnitzel. I should have gotten the ribs...but it was worth trying once!

After dinner we drove around the downtown area so we could get an idea of where to park, walk, and visit on Saturday. Then it was back to the hotel to go to bed.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Lyman Woods: August 11, 2012

Lyman woods is located right across from the home office building of my work, so I've seen the sign for the entrance and had heard of it quite a bit, and decided it was time to give it a try. No one had really prepared me for the adventure that was ahead.

First of all, it is a very beautiful place. It is set up so that there are different areas- oak woods, prairie land, marshes. I can imagine that it would be beautiful no matter what season you go, as there's enough variety that the leaves in the fall, the bare trees and ice filled swampland in the winter, the flowers in the spring, and all of the green life of summer will blow you away. A great spot for a nature photographer.

That being said, I would NOT recommend this place for families with strollers. There are NO paved trails. The trails range from dirt to small areas with mowed grass, and many parts include tree roots as thick as your arm. One of our strollers (the one for our oldest boy-who's almost 3) was creaking so much that I was afraid it would fall apart on the trail!

If you are just on foot, I think the trail would be a lot easier and more attractive. There are portions that get steep, but it's mostly level terrain. And for those people who work across the street, it's the perfect location for a quick stroll and picnic lunch (the picnic area is quite nice).

Overall we are planning to return, but not until the boys are big enough to walk on their own!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lake Renwick - August 4, 2012

Since we were going down for a birthday party in the area, we planned on stopping by this preserve before the party for lunch and a walk. Well, we didn't get ready on time, so we stopped before for lunch, but had to wait until after the party for our walk. It rained in the afternoon so by the time we came back it was slightly cooler, but mostly humid and lots of Mosquitos. We probably won't try this one again unless we're in the area.

The gazebos are very nice- we ate lunch in one. No tables, just benches, but one is right on a fishing pier, another has a nice view of Turtle Lake, and a third is surrounded by the wild grasses. There may have been more, but those were the ones we saw. It was heron mating season so we did see some herons in the distance. The trails were paved and relatively level. Lots of bikers at the time we came, but the path is wide enough that there weren't any collisions. We looped around one area that was 1.25 miles and then went partway down the 2 mile path that goes to another parking area. Very peaceful, very pretty, but too many bugs.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Blackwell Forest Preserve: July 28, 2012

This may have been my favorite 10,000 steps this summer so far! Blackwell is in Wheaton, IL just off of Butterfield Rd and Winfield. It was a gorgeous mid-80 degree day, and we packed a picnic lunch of wraps and berries to take with us.

After eating our lunch and running around a little bit with our nearly 3-year old, we decided it was time to try and climb the mountain. Mt Hoy is 836 feet above sea level and used to be a landfill. It has a gravel path running up one side that makes the climb a little easier, and an alternative steeper grass path on another side. The gravel path was not very stroller friendly, but we decided to try it anyway rather than carrying our 4 month old, and I carried the nearly 3 year old's stroller while he walked. It was slow going on the .5 mile climb, but we were in no rush. Our 3 year old collected rocks from the path to throw into the nearby bushes, and we zigzagged to get the stroller up the mountain. The view from the top was very nice, and it's also fenced off so we didn't need to worry about our 3 year old falling down the steeper sides.

After walking back down the mountain, we drove over to another area in order to get close to the entrance of a walking path. Horses are allowed on the path, and we had the joy of walking behind a pair for a short while. The riders got a kick out of our 3 year old pointing and yelling "cow!" Luckily they took a side path before he had to see them create any road apples, but we did come across a few piles later on and passed by them to the chorus of "ew! Smells!"

The trail we took goes past a few small ponds, an archery range (currently closed), and then into a nice wooded area. The path was gravel and well maintained, so a nice smooth ride for the strollers. It goes across a creek and continues north to another part of the preserve, I think I read that the trail totals were about 8 miles. We turned around after approximately 1.5 miles and headed back to the car.

All in all a beautiful place for a walk, and we will definitely come back for another try at a different trail and possibly future camping trips!