Retreat!

Great Wolf Lodge Bound

On Sunday I loaded up the van with the precious cargo you see above. We drove to the Great Wolf Lodge near Dallas, TX and played our hearts out for about 24 hours. Two other families drove up more kids from our church. I think we had 18 kids there in all and it was so. much. fun. Sure, we’re all still tired from the quick turn-around, but I think we all say it was worth it.

And sure, being in that close of quarters with another family means you get to see aspects of that family you maybe would rather not have seen (ie: MY family), but I suppose that’s what living in community together is all about: the good, the bad, the cranky.

I love these girls. Those who share my home all the time and those who shared our room for one night. I’m thankful for their families and their place in our lives at this moment in time.

And I’d go back to Dallas with them in a heartbeat. But maybe in another month or two. *wink*

The Middle of Vacation

I like to call this photo “Small Town Detention” because I snapped it near the ball fields of a, well, of a really small town earlier this week. It just cracked me up, so there you have it.

We’re currently in the middle of a two-week trip that isn’t exactly a “vacation” in the traditional sense, but is a ceasing of sorts, and thus a break. We’re in a small motel in the middle of Kansas, the kind with an outdoor pool and the kind of early 1980’s broken metal playground out front akin to what you might see on, say, Con Air.

We stopped for lunch in Kansas City to see our friend Ron and tour his awesome audio visual wonderland, aka: Harvest Productions. It was there I discovered two things: 1) I want my own warehouse and 2) Chloe is going to work there when she grows up. Maybe before.

Millie is still battling croup and we’re still drugging her up periodically, but she managed to avoid all walk-in clinics and emergency rooms for two days straight now. We’re hoping to make that three tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, we’re headed to our last big stop of our trip, Colorado Springs, where we will be for the duration of the trip. We’re really looking forward to seeing a lot of people, to visiting favorites from when we lived there, and just being for a few days.

And I’m totally in denial that school starts again in just 5 weeks or so. Wah. I need a break from our summer break. Sooo not ready. You?

Griswold Vacations

To be fair, we’re only half-way through with the one that we’re on and it has *mostly* been fine so far. Cardinals game in St. Louis? Check!

Tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis? Check!

Don’t judge! It was actually super informative and historical. Yes, we took our kids and no, I’m not sorry. Yes, they offered free brew at the end, but no, I didn’t have any. I opted for the Diet Pepsi instead (though I’m really a Coke Zero girl at heart). It’s a free tour and, as we lived in St. Louis for 6 years, long overdue for our family to go on.

Then a quick pass through the reason we moved to St. Louis back in 2005: Covenant Seminary. We initiated our vacation here by purchasing a new book for each of us…

More small town Americana than you can shake a baseball bat at thanks to rural Illinois:

And…small town ER visits for Millie:

Okay, so technically only one ER visit so far. But I took her to a walk-in clinic first just yesterday. Tonight, after 2 hours of consecutive non-stop coughing, she earned her way to the ER for a double dose of breathing treatments, chest x-rays, and a take-home arsenal of meds. We were supposed to begin our westward journey tomorrow, but we’ll be hanging out here on the farm another day to see if we can whip this cough into shape or if she gets to back for round 3 tomorrow.

So, not too Griswold-ish yet, but give us time. Colorado Springs awaits.

Road Tripping

We’re on the road again. I think this is our family’s third trip in as many weeks. This one is the longest and we travel the furthest. Like this:

The first leg of our trip is the closest to our house. We’re visiting my parents and they are taking on the task of adding our two dogs to their mix for the next two weeks. This is no small feat – their own Golden Retriever is more like a wild Mustang than a dog, so this will definitely be an interesting two weeks for them.

We’re going to all the places we’ve lived and seeing a lot of people we love. We hope for rest, meaningful conversations, and potty breaks that are few and far between.

Ah, vacation.

 

August, So Far

In our efforts to slow things down before school starts (ahem), it seems we’ve instead packed as much as possible into these remaining pre-school days.

Last Saturday, Craig’s aunt and uncle celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. At least we think it was them.

Happy Anniversary, "Jan" and "Paul"

On Monday we spent the entire day at Six Flags. Well, we tried to spend the entire day at Six Flags. Chloe had to have an impromptu orthodontist appointment that morning, after which we attempted to go to Six Flags. After a series of frustrating driving challenges getting there (MODOT was working on I-44 and it was backed up almost to 270), we pulled up to the park just in time for Chloe to toss her cookies overboard out the window of the van as we were pulling into the $15 parking lot. And you know what we did? We went in anyway (she has recently started getting carsick and that’s all that was, though we felt like dumb parents for doing it). Still, the day redeemed itself and we had fun.

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On Wednesday I took the girls to visit my sister and her family. This morning, before we left, Michelle and I had the brainstorm to go get Maddie and Anna’s ears pierced again. However, in small-town America, there really is only one place to go to get your ears pierced: Walmart. So I mustered up everything I had inside me to forget all about this experience and took the girls to Walmart. Second time’s a charm, right? (I know how the saying really goes…but I want this one to work on the second try, not the third).

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PS:We bought about the biggest piercing stud they had. If her ears swallow these, we really have no other alternatives but to go back to you-know-where. And you-know-what that means, right? It means I’ll have to get my nose pierced. But let’s not go there just yet.

And finally, I surprised the girls on the way home with a stop at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home in Mansfield, MO. And drat it all if someone didn’t quadruple graffiti that sign all up and I didn’t even notice it until 20 seconds ago as I was copying the URL to paste it in here. Shame on everyone who did that.

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Here they are, my own “Mary, Laura, Carrie, and Grace” as I used to call them here on the Half-Pint House blog, standing in front of the house Almanzo and Laura built and lived in when they moved to Missouri so long ago.

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All the girls loved this experience very much, but I think it was most meaningful for Chloe who has read the entire Little House series so many times I’ve actually lost count. She could go on Jeopardy with all the Little House facts she has stored in her brain. Super cool.

And now we are home. The girls will be attending an art camp that a friend of ours is hosting this week, followed by as much pool action as possible before it winds down for the year. I still haven’t decided if we’ll start on the 17th or the 24th, but I imagine we’ll start doing something soon to ease our way back into it.

Forward, ho!

Because Nothing Says “Atlanta” Like Chick-Fil-A

While searching for a place to eat lunch in Atlanta this afternoon, I asked Craig if Atlanta was known for any particular type of food (you know, like Chicago and pizza…or anything else). He immediately answered: “Chick-Fil-A.” Of course.

Atlanta

Also, nothing says “Atlanta” quite like a pseudo-magician pulling scarves out of your “sleeve” in front of a fountain downtown at Centennial Olympic Park:

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And nothing says “Atlanta” like a trip to the Children’s Museum of Atlanta, which you got into for free with your reciprocal museum pass to The Magic House in St. Louis (but which you almost didn’t because you left your museum pass on the refrigerator in St. Louis). Lucky for us Craig isn’t phone-phobic, and a couple of phone calls later we were on our way. (FYI: It would have been so disappointing had we had to pay for it. The people were nice, but The Magic House puts it to shame.)

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And finally, nothing says “Atlanta” like a pet goat. What? Okay, so we’re not in Atlanta anymore, but staying at the home of my best friend from high school and her family in the middle of Tennessee. And this goat (Royal) belongs to them. We’re having a lovely time.

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We have 5.5 hours to go before officially clocking the first Dunham family vacation with no major “episodes.” It’s been a good one. We think we’re ready to return now.

Fun, Interrupted

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I know there are those of you who are just dying for things to go wrong on this trip. Shame on you! But to appease your sadistic desires, I will let you know that the first night we were here Chloe made it very apparent she was in need, not for the healing powers of the ocean, but the Children’s Medical Center:

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While the other four members of our family actually saw dolphins in the ocean that morning, Chloe and I got better acquainted with the blue walls of the waiting room where we were kept for 90 minutes. Never fear, though: I keep a card game in my Mary Poppins bag, so we became experts at Zigity.

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And then another 30 minutes at the local Walgreens:

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After that, we were back to normal again, doing what we’ve been doing all week – swimming for the girls and Craig…

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…sitting, staring, and reading for me:

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I have actually gotten in the water up to my knees everyday, and yesterday even took the plunge and got in all the way. I found a decently sized seashell when I was in the ocean, but upon showing it to Millie, was knocked over by a wave and lost it again. Sad. I really wanted to find one super cool shell on my own. As it is, we’ve found about 1,000 of the regular kind of shells. Still, it’s fun.

Our condo is nice and we’re very grateful to the people who are letting us stay here this week. Apart from the 70ish self-appointed condo policewoman intent on issuing us some kind of personal grudge citation for bringing children into her retirement haven, hanging towels and swimsuits to dry on the deck railing (we got in trouble twice in five minutes by two people for this one), and hanging towels over the pool fence, it’s all been good.

Yesterday, we were shown around some of the “Old Florida” area by Ken and Dorothy, friends of the people who own our condo and aunt and uncle of Monica’s husband, David:

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And from there it was back to more of the same:

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Today, we expect to repeat this scenario minus the doctor’s office and Florida-tour several more times.

PS: Chloe feels much better now and we’re trying to obey the rules from the condo police. We don’t want to spoil the reputation of the people letting us stay here this week, but I’m telling you, the verbal restraint required to be polite is taking something out of me. Could be the reason I slept 10 hours last night… *grin*

Attic Camping: A Tutorial

When you have made reservations to camp at one of your local state parks and the weather forecast comes in saying 70% chance of rain one day and 80% chance of rain the next, you panic.

Then you get creative. You’ve promised your kids that you are going to camp this weekend. You must not let the young ones down.

First you need to set up a tent in the attic. Make sure your kids bring up everything they own to put in said tent:

Indoor Camping

Get the obligatory happy camper shot before things begin to fall apart:

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Then you proceed to make hoboes* the way you would for cooking over an open fire. Turn on your oven to 375 and pop those packets in there for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile gather all other things needed to consume said hoboes in the attic: plates, forks, cups with ice, drinks. When the hoboes are done, stack them precariously on top of that whole pile of paper products. Make sure one of the packets opens just enough to spill the meat juice down the front of your sweatshirt. Proceed up two flights of stairs.

Hoboes

Eat the hoboes. Wait for the children to not really eat theirs. Finish off theirs. Then break out the s’more supplies.

S'more Supplies for Indoor Camping

At this point you should need no explanation. Any self-respecting camper knows what to do next. Even non-self-respecting campers know what to do here:

Toasting Marshmallows

You should also already know what to do here:

Eat the S'more!

When indoor camping, it is just as important, if not more so, to be on the lookout for signs of wildlife. If you aren’t careful, these critters will eat all your popcorn when you aren’t looking. They will then throw up on the trail (ie: your stairs).

Camping Wildlife

The next morning, look out your window and thank your lucky stars you made the decision to stay home because of the rain. Because it would be so miserable to be out there on a day like this:

"Rainy" Day

And that’s all there is to it! For more tips on how to have the best vacation ever, go Google somebody else. We obviously don’t know.

PS: The weather forecast for today is now only 40% instead of the predicted 80%. I don’t know – it looks pretty sunny to me. Looks nice enough to go camping.

(Though all this may be true, our kids really are having a great time in the attic and Craig is making good progress on his paper. I have yet to do anything productive today. I will do that soon.)

Because We Hate Losing Money More than We Hate Getting Rained On…

Craig and I decided to try to move our camping reservation to another weekend. The major problem we had with that was that, sadly, we don’t really have another weekend where one of the six of us doesn’t have to do something or be somewhere until the weekend of July 3. I know. That’s sad.

Even more sad, though, is that when I checked the website it said cancellations have to be made two days in advance. We were only one day in advance. I called and begged for mercy. “It’s going to rain, you know.” They knew. They didn’t care. I asked if we could just transfer to another weekend. The gal said, you can for a $5.25 fee. Okay! I jumped on that quickly, but then she asked me when we wanted to move it. That’s where this story goes bad.

I looked at the calendar and couldn’t figure it out in the 20 seconds I had to give her a slot. I asked if I could call back and she said that would be fine.

Three hours and about 15 email exchanges with Craig later and we figured out when we could go. I called back. This time the quoted change fee was $16.50. I made my case again for the rain and that I’d been quoted $5.25 earlier by another gal whose name I could unfortunately not remember. A supervisor had to be brought in. The supervisor was not there. He would call me back.

I gave my coveted cell phone number to them (coveted because I have a pre-paid phone and pay for every minute the phone uses – only three people have the number and they all know I don’t really want them to use it). I took the girls to the orthodontist. I kept the phone in my hand for two hours and no calls. I called again from the Walgreens parking lot where I was told the supervisor had just come in and was working his way down the list and he would get to me when it was my turn.

Was she implying that I was impatient? Ahem.

I held the phone in my hand for another hour. I then set it down in the car for 10 minutes by accident and walked away. Guess when the supervisor called?

He left a message in which he explained the policy and told me my fee to change would actually be one night’s worth of this reservation ($11.50) plus the $5.25 change fee plus the $8.50 reservation fee: $25.25. I would get a total of $5.25 back after paying $30.50. I would then have to rebook the other weekend making this camping reservation a whopping $55.75.

He didn’t even bother to mention the rain.

All that to say this: We’re going camping this weekend.

We’re sure to have some kind of story to tell. If you think of it, pray the weather would be nice, or that we would be. Sometimes we aren’t so nice to each other when we’re cold and wet. Okay, sometimes I’m not so nice. This time I want to be.