I absolutely adore summer. Wanna know why?

Sun shining

Sky warming

Coats and socks disappearing

Windows opening

Breeze blowing

Shadows lengthening

Daylight lingering

Fireflies firing

Dandelions floating

Kids’ laughter pealing

Smiles growing

Play playing

Drinks flowing

Fun increasing

People enjoying

Freshly mowed grass smelling

Bikes pedaling

Skin tanning

Water splashing

Little feet running

Footprints leading

Arms hugging

Legs strolling

Outside happening

Road trips driving

Swings swinging

Hammocks lounging

Laundry hanging

Slides sliding

Vacations occurring

Love spreading

Music drifting

 

The good times had during summer are always countless, and each and every one simply makes my heart swell.

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the spectacular view from our front porch one gorgeous night this summer

 

 

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Planes & automobiles

July 2, 2014

I’ve been remiss these past few months and haven’t yet posted about the 2 great vacations we took this spring. So sorry.

But here I finally am, and I brought pictures.

Just 1 thing I learned during our second vacation before I get into all the details, though. All-driving road trips totally suck. I mean sure, we went to some cool places and did some fun things along the way, but a 5-day trip that is spent primarily in the car is not exactly all the fun it’s cracked up to be. Especially when a good chunk of time is spent navigating detours on super boring, “scenic” back roads in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Now that we have that out of the way…

First up was our trip to Hawaii in April. We were lucky enough to get to spend a full week out there again with my mom and stepdad, and it was glorious. We flew to LA on Good Friday, then flew directly to Maui that Saturday before Easter. We came home overnight the following Saturday into Sunday, and the girls both did great on all the flights.

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Since having kids, my idea of a true vacation has changed dramatically. Nowadays (did i really just say nowadays? geez), I don’t consider anything a real vacation unless it’s adults only. Honestly. I love my kids more than life and more than I ever thought possible before I had them, but when we go on vacation just the 4 of us as a family, it’s really just more like parenting them somewhere besides our house. Anyone agree, or am I the only mean one?

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Obviously family vacations are a wonderful way for the girls to see new places and everything, and we do always have fun, but Ryan and I often find we get home just a little more tired than when we began. That, clearly, is not the definition of a vacation.

Anyway, back to Hawaii. This truly was a vacation. The girls got to spend time with Grandma and Grandpa, Ryan and I actually enjoyed many real vacation days, and we all came back happy, rested, and relaxed. It was beautiful, recharging, and all around amazing. Maui is by far one of my favorite places on Earth.

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i just adore what the humidity did to her hair.

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our beloved tiki bar at the hotel where we spent the maui portion of our honeymoon. such wonderfully fond memories of those 8 years ago, so we have to make a stop each time we’re back.

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could there possibly be a cuter hula girl? i think not.

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the first time those beautiful little toes touched ocean waves. pure happiness.

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IMG_3416our updated balcony family drinking shot. had to add in the new kid.

DCIM100GOPROforget the baby rafts. this girl wanted to swim! 

Next up was our annual Wisconsin family vacation. Almost annual, I guess, since we forewent this one last summer and did our Great American Road Trip out west instead.

Now this trip originated a few years ago as just a long weekend for me and Ryan. I think the first one we did was the year I was pregnant with Della, which was 2010. It has since evolved into a 5-6 day affair, and we try to visit a different part of the state each time. We have now seen pretty much the whole thing, so we’ll just start repeating our favorites. We usually aim to work as many breweries in as we can along our chosen path of travel, but this year every place we wanted to visit that would have fit our route was closed during the days we’d be passing through that particular area. Of course. Because why not?

Also this year, we discovered one area that is definitely not on the favorites list. Wisconsin state highway 35 north of Hudson, WI, is one of the most annoying stretches of highway we have ever traversed. It’s marked as a scenic highway on the map, so we decided to give it a whirl. Bad idea. Especially since getting to it involved a 1-hour detour on back roads that of course were not on said map.

But let me back up and start from the beginning of that trip. Because parts of it really were fun. It started on a Friday in early June, with Ryan taking a half day from work and all 4 of us heading over to Madison. We ate some great food, spent some nice sunny time at Memorial Terrace, then stayed the night at our good friends’ house in Cottage Grove. The next morning we stopped at the National Mustard Museum in Middleton (actually very fun, surprisingly) before heading up to Eau Claire to spend the weekend at my aunt and uncle’s house.

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stop 1 – vintage, a brewpub on the west side of madison.

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terrace fun. such a different brand of fun now than the countless hours i spent there as a student and recent grad.

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who knew the mustard museum would actually be great?

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nigh-night the green monkey and crayons. road trip staples.

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can’t beat good times with family.

That was as far as we had planned our trip by the time we set off, so the rest was totally play-it-by-ear. We spent Saturday and Sunday nights in Eau Claire and enjoyed a great meal with more of my family at one of my other uncle’s houses over in Hudson, WI, Sunday afternoon. Monday morning we drove all the way to the top of the state and checked out Superior, WI. Ryan wanted to see the ice that was still hanging around on Lake Superior since our “spring” had been so cold, but we missed it by about a week. We spent that night in Duluth, MN, which seems like a really cool city.

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this is so much fuuuuuuun!

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enjoying the shores of icy lake superior.

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by far, their favorite part of the entire trip – hotel bed jumping.

Tuesday we began our trek down the west coast of Wisconsin, because I really wanted to drive the Wisconsin Great River Road. It’s the only national scenic highway in the state, and it runs from Prescott, WI, which is roughly half an hour south of Hudson on the Mississippi River, down to Potosi, WI, which is just north of the IL border, also right on the river. We’d been to Potosi during our second WI vacation, so we knew we liked it there.

That whole section in between Duluth and Potosi was what we were not familiar with, however. Here is where WI highway 35 comes back into play. Leaving Duluth, you can either get on Interstate 35 through the northeastern section of Minnesota, or WI 35, which runs straight south out of Superior, slightly inland from the St. Croix River and the western border of WI. This, then, carries you the entire length of the state down to Potosi, becoming the Wisconsin Great River Road in its southern half.

Ryan intended to get on WI 35 and just take it all the way south, but of course we ended up on I-35 instead and drove directly into Minnesota. Which is not Wisconsin, and we were on a Wisconsin vacation. (yes, i know we stayed in duluth, but from then on, wisconsin was our goal) So, after a few miles, we decided to try to get back to WI 35 and forgo the 70 mph speed limit we had been enjoying. We soon learned the error of our ways.

For as soon as we got off the interstate, we were hit with back country road detour after detour. For about an hour. At one point Ryan claimed he didn’t want to do this trip anymore, and we were just going to head home. Baby. He’s obviously not a road trip veteran.

Guess where we finally hooked back up with WI 35? 5 miles south of Superior! Yes, that’s correct. We spent all that time making one gigantic, slow, utterly miserable circle. So not only did we waste the hourish just trying to get to WI 35, we also wasted about 2-3 more hours of total travel time, since we essentially started our day’s trip over at the very top of the state instead of winding up all the way down in Hudson to start the Great River Road like we would have had we stayed on I-35, cruising along at lovely highway speeds.

So. Now that we were all in a foul mood, that part of the trip was just dandy. There were a bunch of stops we actually wanted to make on the southern half of that road, but since our day ended up really starting so much later than when we actually got in the car, we didn’t have the luxury of enjoying all those stops. Plus we couldn’t exactly just keep the girls in the car all night so we could get to where we wanted to be to start the next day, so we stopped Tuesday night in La Crosse. Not on our original agenda, but whatever.

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one of ryan’s must-stops – red wing, mn, where the world’s largest boot resides. it scared the crap out of lana.

Wednesday was our last day, so we drove south to Potosi, finished the whole Great River Road, turned back east to go to a brewery and a hamburger stand that Ryan had bookmarked as must-stops, then headed to our final destination, and one of my favorite places in the state, New Glarus brewery.

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fun in potosi. i have no idea what they were doing with their eyes. goggles, maybe?

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her first root beer float. she obviously hated it, can’t you tell?

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rau family christmas card 2014.

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this girl does love her ice cream. and what better to do on a 5-day road trip than eat cheeseburgers and ice cream? that’s my kind of trip!

Oh but wait. Nothing can go quite swimmingly for us, so at what time did we arrive at New Glarus? Closing time. That’s about right. So we went home. The end.

But we have now seen pretty much the entire state, and we know that we never have to travel on WI 35 north of Hudson, WI, again. So we did learn something on this trip. Fortunately the girls are excellent car travelers, so we really never had to worry about them at all. 1400 miles in 5 days around Wisconsin is in the books.

To top it all off, 2 days after we got home from that trip, I ran my half marathon (yes, i did have to get my last 2 training runs in during our wisconsin vacation. oh so fun.), I drove the girls down to Peoria for a night, then we went up to my mom’s house for almost a week. More driving, but that trip was wonderful because the whole thing involved seeing and spending time with family. Plus, being at my mom’s house really is a vacation for me, because the girls play with Grandma and Grandpa again, and I actually get to read a magazine or two.

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fun with grandpa in the hammock.

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this is about as good as we can hope for when trying to get these 3 kids to cooperate for a picture. we should have gotten my dad in there to complete the 4 generations. duh!

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take 2…

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what screams summer more than 3 little kids covered in blue ice cream in an inflatable swimming pool? nothing.

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and we just keep trying…

As much fun as was had everywhere, I was very glad knowing that no more travels were on the calendar for a while after I got home from that last leg. Good thing, too, because the car needs new brakes.

 

 

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Last night we went to a Lakeshore Chinooks baseball game, which is the local NWL team. They have a beautiful stadium about 10 minutes from our house that just opened up a few summers ago. It’s clean, it sits directly on the shores of Lake Michigan, it’s much smaller than Miller Park and subsequently so much better to handle with small children, and it’s just all around easy and pleasant.

The last time Della and I had been was the summer of 2012 when I was pregnant with Lana, so I was excited to get back. Plus tickets are only $6 – can’t beat that.

The main reason we went was because it was princess night. Little girls could come and meet some princesses in person, and a local salon and spa was doing complimentary princess hair and makeup if you so chose. Della loved having a princess braid put in her hair, but we forewent the makeup. On a 3 year old? No thanks.

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Since summer apparently forgot that it officially began this past weekend around here, the entire stadium was blanketed in thick fog by the time we arrived, and the first pitch got postponed for over an hour past its originally scheduled 6:35 time slot. The game ended up being canceled at 7:45 due to conditions, but at least our tickets are good for another game of our choosing.

The fog did lift at one point, though, and it stayed clear just long enough for what turned out to be the supreme highlight of the evening. All the little girls got to go out on the field and run the bases with the princesses. Oh man, Della was going to love this!

Little did I know what was in store…

Everyone lined up at home plate for a photo op, then the girls all took off running down the third base line. Why they ran them backwards, I have no idea, but as soon as everyone started running, “Let It Go” came over the speakers. And the girls began running as fast as they could, barely able to contain their excitement.

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About halfway between third and second bases of the first lap (they were running the bases backwards, remember), Della all of a sudden left the pack. I thought, where in the world is she going? It was quite obvious what the intended route was.

She apparently had grander plans.

She ran into the infield, practically stood on the pitcher’s mound, and proceeded to enact her entire routine to “Let It Go,” singing, hand motions, foot stomps, and all.

I honestly almost burst into tears I was so happy watching her do her own little thing and have the most amazing time doing it. Witnessing the sheer, unadulterated joy of a kid being a kid, as that kid’s parent, is probably the single most wonderful thing I have ever experienced.

Her little legs could not go any faster, she was running around that field so happily and carefreely. Carefreely? Is that even a word? It is now, and it’s exactly how she was running.

She did rejoin the crowd a couple times to continue on around, but man, that infield was her stage. I could not believe it. I’ve never known her to break away so surely from a group like that, especially since she first trotted out hand-in-hand with another little girl she had befriended earlier on the playground. But break away she did, and I couldn’t have been prouder.

I kept thinking that had a talent scout been in the crowd, we would have had the next Broadway star on our hands. Well, maybe.

I tell ya, this parenting stuff just never ceases to amaze me. These little pieces of me who are now out and about in the world, walking, singing, dancing, “Let It Go”-ing on their own just make me so, so very happy.

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our little princesses with the “real” princesses. della decided she wanted to run around on the playground instead of wear her princess dress, so they both settled for crowns and Frozen necklaces. and della wore her fancy pink jellies with flowers on them. plus it was way too cold for a dress. stupid weather.

 

 

 

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