Sunday, 23 August 2015

Cave of the Mounds: A Excellent Adventure Day!

    There is an area about 40 minutes west of the town we live in called Cave of the Mounds.  The boys both went there when they were in cub couts.  I had always wanted to go see it, but was unwilling to pay for tickets for our entire family to go in (it is a bit expensive).  Now that just Sylvia, Ephraim and I were having our own "Adventure Days" this summer, it seemed like the perfect time to visit.  We weren't dissapointed!

   On the surface, it looks like usual Wisconsin hills and farmland.

  The caves below were accidentally discovered when a man was blasting a new shaft in his lead mine almost 200 years ago.  Now there is a small path you can take down into the caves, as a guide ponts out different features.   They are really beautiful. 


  It was really peaceful underground. Nice and cool for a July summer day. These were formations that looked like potatoes and gravy.

  There was one rock they allowed people to touch, to show what would happen if everybody touched the rocks.  Sylvia thought it felt a little "slimey and bumpy".

  Ephraim was happy to be snug in his sling on me for the whole trip.  He did not trust this underworld adventure in the least.

   They did a good job tucking lighs away in places you couldn't see them. It gave just enough light to appreciate the rock formations, without being over the top.  I thought it was a really peaceful and elegant place.  I'm so glad we went.

    After the underground tour, we did a self-guided walking tour of the area above the caves. We could see the sinkholes that had been pointed out while we were underground.  This is where we watched rainwater dripping in just a while earlier below the surface.

  The gift shop was a hit.  The kids had a great time running their fingers over the beautiful rocks, and marveling at all the amazing crystal items for sale.

   On the way home, we stopped at the Bavarian Sausage store, a place we had hear great things about.  The reports were true.  I found shelves and shelves of Scandinavian imported food.  We came home with a large bag of goodies.  We took this picture to show Sean when we returned home, to see if he would cry.  (Because we got to go there and he didn't).  He had a quivering lip, but somehow managed to hold off the deluge of tears. Sylvia was dissapointed in the lack of waterworks. :)

It was a great trip!  I loved seeing something new and beautiful that I had wanted to see for years. Sylvia is wonderful company.  I love having her with me on our Adventure Days!

July 4th (AKA The Epic Water Fight of 2015)

    Being away from family on the 4th of July is always tough for me.  I know they are playing in water, eating great food, and blowing up lots of things.  So, we try to recreate some of those adventures here in Wisconsin during those years we can't travel back West.  This year, the pile of squirt guns led to an epic water battle.

  It started out simple enough, loading the guns with water from the turtle swimming pool with the younger kids.

 Enter... the Big Boys.

Threats were made, guns were pointed, and things escalated quickly.

Mattias tried to use the turtle cover as a shiled, as others blocked him from gaining access to the water.

 The shield works well... but he is unable to fill his own gun with the double sided onslaught from Sean and Asher.

  He decides to take matters into his own hands.  Braving the streams of water, and using his amazing muscles, Mattias lifts the pool, and dumps the entire resevoir - instantly shutting down any attackers!

  This leaves him free to go and turn on the neighbors hose, for a distance attack, which Asher counters by turning on our hose.  At this point, mom intervenes, and bans the use of hoses.

  The water fight became more creative, as various mixing bowls were brought into play, and buckets found in the shed for furture water storage options.  Sylvia and Ephraim used this time to try out a Slip and Slide we got.

Sylvia decided it was time for her to make a statement and get into the water battle.

     She might look innocent, but she was very sneaky and accurate with her aim.  She made enemies fast.. as you can see Asher aiming a picture of water at her below.

   It ended with her antagonizing  Sean, and all the boys ganging up on her.  She didn't stand a chance.  She will have to wait until Ephraim is older and convince him to be her ally.

   Ephraim got cold and was turning blue.. so we called it quits with the water and put on some dry clothes. Asher introduced him to the world of "snaps" while Mattias started a fire.

    Mattias is the best fire starter in our family. He has amazing patience to blow on coals until they leap into a blaze.  Ephraim, of course, wanted to help as much as possible.

  The s'more lineup was impressive.  It was like a facotry production line.

Asher,  showing us how a perfect marshemellow should be roasted.

He creates his signature item, the "Double S'more".

Watching him eat it all at once ( to see if he could get it all in his mouth at the same time) was not a sight for the faint of heart.

  While waiting for s'more sticks, Sylvia showed Ephraim how to dance through the smelly clouds of smoke bombs.

    It was a lovely afternoon, complete with some very tasty hamburgers and potato salad.  Although our thoughts turned often to family back in Idaho, it was good to be with the kids.  I doubt there will be another epic water battle like this for many a year to come.  It felt wonderful to laugh together, in our soggy wet clothes.  I love these guys.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

The Beginning of Adventure Days

     Since Sean took on a big freelance project for the summer, we didn't travel anywhere exotic.  Instead, I tried to have an "Adventure Day" once a week with Sylvia and Ephraim so they would feel like the summer was something exciting.

   Adventure Day number one was on my birthday in June.  Sylvia took a horseback riding lesson in the morning with a friend.

Ephraim enjoyed petting the horses, and even got to sit on top of one for a while. 

We ate lunch in the car and drove up the the Wisconsin Dells, where we took a ride on the famous Dells Army Ducks.

I thought it was really fun, there was some beautiful scenery to see along the trails as well as in the water.

     The following week, we went to the zoo in Madison.   Ephraim rode his first time on the carosel without being held.  He wasn't sure about it though.

 Sylvia showed him the secrets of goat feeding.  (Holding your hand flat, and how to scour the edges of the fence for food other people had dropped.) 

 He was a confident goat-feeder by the end.  He really loved it.

    The next week, "Adventure Day" was more local.   We walked down to the Stoughton fair and watched the 4-H kids  wash  the animals in preparation for showing them to the judges.  It was a great day!  One of those perfect days that are so rare.
      Ephraim loved watching a baby calf nurse right in front of him, dripping milk everywhere.  Both he and Sylvia enjoyed wandering around watching people giving haircuts to the cows and sheep.  We watched the rabbits and chickens get judged. They also got to practice their milking skills.

     We enjoyed looking at the cake displays and flower displays.  Even though this cake only got a 2nd place ribbon, it was our favorite.  We are going to try it sometime!

     Sylvia went on rides the next day with her friends.  They did all the crazy big rides with the teenagers.  These younger siblings grow up fearless!

Friday, 24 July 2015

The World of Ephraim

    With all the craziness teenagers bring to a home, it is nice to have a 1 year old.  Ephraim makes me smile! He gets into the most unexpected scrapes,and makes you see the world differently.  For example, why not use the dog as a step stool for looking out the window?

 Or, use the dog as a bed?

   There was a phase where he would climb everything for a few days.  He kept climbing the fish tank over and over... and kept getting stuck at the top.  I'd get him down, and then 10 minutes later, he would be scaling the sides again.

Ephraim has been taught to love mud puddles from Sylvia, who was taught the art-of-mud by Noel. 
 So, I guess it is a family tradition.

   Ephraim suddenly took an interest in Sylvia's violin.  (I think it had something to do with all the hours Asher had been playing getting ready for his recital.)   Sylvia was wonderful as a teacher, helping him to hold it correctly and play it.

Ephraim is also a master lid opener.  He found some paint.. and Why not use it as body paint?

  We spend hours outside during the summer afternoons, getting wet.. which ususally leads to getting muddy.  Here is a pleasant pre-mud picture.

     Often twilight walks are the only way to get him to stop exploring the world.  He runs from sun-up to sun down, not even taking time to eat, unless he is strapped into something.

Sean is a great dad.  During one summer down pour, he took time to play in the rain with Ephraim.

    Our house is over run by books!  Ephraim loves to read and read.  We read hours with him. He has an amazing vocabulary.  He uses 4 syllable words, and tells jokes (accompanied by his own canned fake laughter of "ha ha ha.")    Sylvia often crawls in bed with him and reads to him first thing in the morning.

     Then Ephraim will make his rounds to "see what the guys doing" (as he put it).  If Asher is still in bed, he will crawl in with him and snuggle.

   We are so lucky to have this little guy in our house. I love having the wide ages in children. It was really rough the first year.. but now I appreciate it more. It is fun. Ephraim helps us all to "keep it real"!

Three Days of June Parties: Day 3, Sylvia's 9th Birthday!

  At the end of a very busy week, Sylvia decided to have a birthday.  No, I guess it was 9 years ago that was decided.  It actually worked out very well, because my parents were in town for all the graduation events, so they could celebrate with Sylvia before they caught their plane home.

  That meant that Sylvia got to hear Grandma's special "CHA CHA CHA"s during the Happy Birthday song.
 How lucky was that?!

  Since it was a brunch birthday party, we had a birthday Kringle (a Norweigen pastry from a bakery down around the corner).

It was a fun way to end a great visit with my parents. We were glad to have Noel over as well.

Sylvia loved Noel's gift of "DJ Pony" and Reeses's Peanut Butter Cups.

Sylvia had been begging for roller skates. She got a set of pink ones from Sean and I. She spent the rest of the day roller skating around the main floor.  She improved quickly, but found it wasn't as easy as she had expected.

  After an exciting drive to the airport to drop my parents off (during which our car started smoking and died, stranding us until Noel came to our rescue) we got ready for Sylvias evening swimming pool party with her freinds.

We had cupcakes and ice-cream sandwiches in a room next to the pool.  The theme was My Little Pony (what else?!), and her freinds were awesome and festive. 

Sylvia couldn't have smiled any bigger without hurting her face. :)   After present opening and much laughter, they swam for an hour and had a blast.  It was a great way to end a party filled week.
  As parents, we wanted each of our children to know they were important as individuals and had our support (as well as their friends') as they reached important milestones.  Whew.   What a week.  I think we succeeded in each one feeling loved.  Whew.  We came, we partied... we survived.