August 5, 2008 - Wisconsin Dells

Ok, so I missed blogging about our trip to the Dells. We stopped at the Dells between Tomah and Sheboygan. It is still a fun place to be - even without the Lake. We didn't want to get wet as we were on our way to a waterpark resort so we went to the Deer Park and let the boys (and this includes Randy) go go-cart racing.

The Deer Park is expensive but you can spend as much time as you would like there. For a family of 6 (with 6 packets of food to feed the deer) it cost $70. I am sure there are coupons and such but we weren't staying in the Dells, so purchasing a book didn't make sense. For those of you who have never ventured into the deer park, there are various species of deer, some goats, rabbits, a raccoon and a couple of lemurs. You can feed the animals with hooves.

Some are kept behind fences with their own kind but there are lots of them wandering free. I shouldn't say wandering that implies an aimless meandering. These animals are on a mission and they know that the kids give up those crackers much easier than adults so they attach themselves to a child until they have relieved said child of all his/her crackers. Michael is a prime target. This deer loved Michael. He followed him after the crackers were gone.
These deer have not met many Ukrainian former orphans. Lera was not about to give up her crackers without considerable effort on the part of the deer and once they got a cracker from her there was no guarentee that she wasn't going to take it back. She smiled the whole time though. We didn't get a great photo of her doing this with the deer but she treated the goats with the same determination.

Caelia is much more soft hearted. She tried repeatedly to feed this sitting deer. Unfortunately, the deer was so stuffed that no amount of conjoling by Caelia could get her to eat even one bite more. She did figure out a few tips from Lera however...
Generally, you see small groups of deer but if you sit quietly and wait you may just get mugged by the whole herd.
Randy had to tell them to back off!

July 19, 2008 - Lake Michigan

One of the things we really think is important for our kids is to expose them to new experiences and new places. For Michael, this can be challenging. He likes things just so and he wants to stay close to home. That being said, he throws himself into our outings with enthusiasm and will talk about the places and the things we do with great pleasure. For our girls, and most especially Lera, seeing the world and interacting with a variety of people is great for them. Most people we meet are tolerant if the girls are too friendly. Lera is really bad for touching other people. She has a wonderful view that the everyone adores her and she adores just about everyone. Caelia is like that to a lesser extent. We are still teaching them about personal space but I believe that if they meet enough people and are exposed to varied environments and social situations, the easier they will fit into society as adults. The world is such a wonderful place and our kids have a view of it like no other. I like seeing the world through their eyes.

Our trip this weekend was to Lake Michigan and Door County, Wisconsin. This is a long car ride but this is some place that I had heard about and it seemed like a reasonable distance for a weekend trip. We got a late start on Thursday because Lera had her cardiology appointment, audiology appointment and C-spine xray so we stopped in Tomah, Wisconsin. We stayed at a wonderful place called The Cranberry Lodge. We had a 1 bedroom suite with a futon in the bedroom and a king size bed with another futon in the living room. Michael and Christopher slept in the living room and the girls slept on the futon in the bedroom with us. Oh, and for anyone wondering...Christopher is our sometimes child. He is Michael's best friend and spends lots of time with us, but he does have another home - we are just lucky to have him around.

Our next stop was Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The resort itself was beautiful and the room was fantastic. (It's part of the Great Wolf Lodges and has a very kid friendly atmosphere) The girls loved the waterpark. They really don't like the deeper water, so they stay in the "under 6 inches of water" infant play area. It had geysers and all sorts of knobs to turn and water that sprayed from all sorts of pipes. They loved laying down in the water but they would not go down the kiddie water slides (where the water is about 18 inches deep). Oh, well baby steps. Michael, Christopher and Randy were playing on the slides until the park closed at 10pm. There were lots of activities available for the kids in the resort but we didn't participate. These are things that are best suited to a long vacation, where the kids are more comfortable with the routine. We did go and enjoy the beach. It was 20 degrees cooler by the resort then it was 5 miles away. A bit too cold for playing in the water but Lera did give it her best attempt. She didn't really make it into the water but she played in some very wet sand. When we left the next morning we walked out on the pier. The fog is amazing on Lake Michigan. Half way out on the pier, we could no longer see the resort or the far end of the pier. We could hear the fog horns blaring though.

Our last stop was in Sturgeon Bay. This is in Door County. It is beautiful here. It almost feels like New England. The canal in Sturgeon Bay that connects the two sides of the of the peninsula created to make Green Bay accessible without having to navigate "Death's Door" - the colorful name for the waters. One of the reasons for the name is that it is said that it is the site of more shipwrecks than any freshwater body of water and rivals some parts of the ocean for the same title. One story involving Native Americans has one tribe building a ring of campfires on thin ice offshore, to woo their enemies through the strait overnight. The attackers perished on the way. The canal has a lovely park where the kids played. I tried teaching the girls how to whistle using a blade of grass. They liked this a whole lot more than Randy did. Lera and Caelia both managed to make a noise with me holding the blade of grass.

Michael fell off the swings and scraped up his back and then disappeared for a while and came back with a present for his mama. A water lily. Michael tries so hard to bring me one. These are not easy to come by and it usually ends up with Michael soaked and empty handed. He triumphed on this occasion and made his Mama teary eyed. He still ended up soaked.

Both Randy and I are very fond of lighthouses. If there is one in a reasonable driving distance - we're there. We stopped at Lighthouse. This is under the control of Homeland Security so you can't get too close but you can see the lighthouse and once again it was foggy so you could hear the fog horn. There is a public beach right next to the lighthouse that we played on. Caelia, Lera and I walked in the waves. Lake Michigan is cold but not as icy as Lake Superior and the rocks on the shore are completely different - if you notice that sort of thing. The boys wandered away in the fog and Randy had to chase them down and bring them back. The girls and I played in the waves and searched the beach for treasures. We found several very pretty rocks, a small whole shell and a tiny blue crab claw, leftover from some sea gull's lunch.

We stayed at the Stone Harbor Resort in Sturgeon Bay. It was a beautiful resort and an awesome suite. The boys got the sofa sleeper and a rollaway bed. Michael got the rollaway because he had scraped his back pretty badly on the swings at the park. Actually, he scraped it falling off the swing onto the wood chips below. Honestly, we thinks wood chips are a good thing in a play area? Ouch!

The girls shared our room. They liked the beds but they were thrilled with the huge whirlpool in the bedroom. While the boys swam and Randy went to work out, they spent over an hour in their own private pool. I wish I had been able to get a picture but the battery was dying on the camera and I grabbed the wrong charger. We definitely have too many electronics, It was a very good vacation. I really needed the break and it was good to have time with just the kids and Randy.

July 12, 2008 - Big brother Michael

I don't mention Michael nearly enough. He really is a lot of fun and he is so very helpful. The girls adore him and look up to him. Michael is by far their favorite plaything. If Randy is not out with me, Michael gets carts, opens doors, helps get kicking little girls into their seat in the grocery cart. They are really too big for this but I don't want them running amok in the store and sometimes I need to get things done without my other half. We are working on behaviors but these things take time and they still insist on eating.

July 4, 2008 - Happy Independence Day!

Our Independence Holiday actually started on July 3rd. We took the kids to the Taste Of Minnesota. It's a sort of festival - lots of carnival food, rides and live performers. We went later in the evening with my Dad and my brother, Ryan. We had tried to go to another festival last weekend where there were fireworks and discovered that Lera is about as pleased with fireworks as she is with electrical storms. As soon as she heard the first boom, she became agitated and we had to take her back to the car. We stayed for the rest of the fireworks (Caelia and Michael love them) and I sat with Lera in the car. I turned up the music really loud but she insisted in getting in her car seat and buckling herself in. I would say, "Look Lera, aren't they beautiful?" To which she answered with a gruff and commanding "GO!"

We thought we would try the fireworks at the Taste of Minnesota because we could park far enough away that she wouldn't hear the boom so much. It was really busy but it was nice to get out with my brother and Dad. The girls mostly like the rides. The only real good picture that I got was of them on an octopus ride. I really need to get a camera with a faster shutter speed - they never stop moving!

Michael and Christopher stayed out in the tent last night. It was a perfect night for camping even if it is in the backyard with an extension cord to power a fan and extra lights and a cellphone. Michael then spent the day with his Auntie Lori. He had a lot of fun. He proclaimed this to have been the BEST 4th of July ever.

We also took the kids swimming at my Dad's house since I last posted. Caelia seems to have regressed and doesn't care for the water anymore. She has always been a bit cautious but she just wouldn't cooperate this time, so we spent a lot of time on the steps splashing. Lera's first swimming experience was a great one. She is a little clingy (a good thing in my opinion) but she loves the water and is catching on to the basics of swimming really quickly. The pool is indoors (the only way to have one in Minnesota) so the chlorine levels are lower - very important for a little girl with sensitive skin - and it is always warm. Even in mid-January, the temperature is 82 degrees Fahrenheit, so we will be swimming a lot this year. I want to get both girls swimming as soon as possible. If you live in the land of 10,000 lakes, being able to swim is a necessity.