Friday, June 29, 2007

To Allentown at last!

Yesterday morning we enjoyed a great breakfast with JD, Lisa, and kids at a local restaurant. We then went to see the Erie Canal!! We were lucky enough to arrive just as a boat came through, so we saw it go through the three locks and raise up 60 feet. It was fascinating. Last year the boys sang the "Erie Canal" song in chorus, and now they understand it. We also visited a neat little museum about the Canal which had surprisingly good exhibits and a short film.

We then piled into the van for the drive to Pennsylvania. As we were going, I looked at the map and realized we would be within 10 minutes of Cindi and Tom (Chris' sister.) So we called Cindi and arranged to meet them for an hour in Lewisburg. They took us on a tour of their new farm. Right now the barn is being repaired and the old house is being torn down to prepare for the building of their new house. It was great to see them and finally see the property that we've heard so much about.

We then got in the car for one final time, and made it to Allentown at about 9:45. Today we're spending the day doing laundry and playing with all the toys. Benjamin and Alexander got all of Dave's old Star Wars toys out of the attic and have been playing happily ever since. Mom is in the garden, picking fresh peas and sugar peas for dinner. It's nice to finally be in one place and relax. Until Sunday, when we take the boys to camp. Chris and I will be staying in the Poconos for three nights while they are at camp to celebrate our 15th anniversary! We'll have high speed access then and hope to post some pictures from Niagara Falls and Lockport.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Niagara Falls

Wow! What a day. We left Toronto at 8AM and arrived at the falls by 10. After paying $18 to park(!!!), we checked out the Canadian side. It was incredible. As Chris said, after this, Disney isn't going to seem so amazing. We took the Maid of the Mist and got soaked - definitely a highlight for the boys. We also walked "behind the falls" where we got to see the back side of water. All I can say is we were suckers. Oh well.

We then crossed the border to see the American side. Here we only had to pay $8 to park, and we took a trolley for $6 for all five of us. The view from the American side is not as nice, but that's because the Canadian side is so built up.

We then met our friends JD and Lisa, who we haven't seen for years. They brought us a wonderful picnic dinner. Luckily our 6 kids hit it off and played all night, ending at the grandparent's pool. We didn't get back to the hotel until 10:10, at which point the boys collapsed. We're about to do the same.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

More pictures

For those of you who just can't get enough of our trip (translate: grandparents!), follow this link to all 200 pictures posted on Snapfish. These are pictures from our first 12 days only. Aren't digital cameras great??? Unfortunately, they are in no particular order. Don't worry, we'll have all the hard copies to bore people with when we return!

Toronto, Day Three as dictated by Alexander

Today we went to Casa Loma. It was really big. It was built in 1911. You could go to the very top. Usually you can see out the windows, but today they were building it back and the windows were covered. There were lots of rooms in it. When you come in, you get this cell phone thing that has numbers and other buttons on it. You press 101 to start. In most rooms, there's a number that you have to press to get information about the room.

Next, we went to a BIG museum. It told about in the 1800's. And some of the 1900's. There was a room that told about way back in the 1800's. And it kept on going back and back until it was almost to our time. (Royal Ontario Museum)

There was a room about Egypt, and they had real mummies. They opened one and there was a person in it. It was put in back before Jesus. It was creepy because you could see the old person. It looked all black because it's been in there for so long. But it wasn't to the bones yet.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Toronto, Day 2

Again, another busy day. It was hot, too, but we have no idea how hot it actually was, since the temperature here is given in celcius! I think it was about 32 degrees, but I don't know how that compares.

We began the day at the Toronto Zoo. Their animal displays were nice, but there were two unique areas: dinosaurs and a splash playground. The dinosaurs scared Jonathan, of course (see above), but fascinated the other two. Then they played for about half an hour in a huge splash zone. Luckily I had read the brochure ahead of time and took their suits. There were a ton of kids there on field trips, so I think Canadians are still in school. The Toronto Zoo is absolutely huge - we probably saw about 1/3 of the exhibits at the most.

We then had the lunch we had packed in the car, and after much deliberation decided to drive over to the Ontario Science Center. The airconditioning is what tipped the scales. Unfortunately, we only had 2 1/2 hours to spend there. We could easily have been there all day. When it closed at 5, we spent about an hour in traffic and finally stopped at Boston Pizza for dinner. It was nice, like a TGI Fridays. We had good meals, topped off by dessert - you can order what they call "bite size portions" of dessert, which are basically the regular size cut in half.

The restaurant was conveniently across the street from the mall, so we ventured in, searching for a Blue Jays shirt for Alexander. No luck, but we did buy a few souveniers along the way. Wal Mart is one of the corner stores at this mall - ugh. Despite being labeled a "department store," it's the same ugly, crowded Wal Mart you'ld find anywhere. We couldn't get out of there fast enough.

Tomorrow we visit our last two main sights. Chris is downstairs right now, trying to figure out if it is easier and cheaper to drive or take the bus/train. We've also managed to run out of Canadian Dollars and need to go exchange some. I always forget how expensive big cities are. When we go to NYC next month, we're taking double the cash!!!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Day one in Toronto

We started our day a little late, because we didn't set the alarm and the boys slept until 8:00 AM, which must be a record. After breakfast at the hotel, we walked to the train station and took the train into downtown Toronto (about a 30 minute ride.)

We began at the CN building, which is the world's tallest. We went to the observation level first, where they have a glass floor that looks down over the city. A bit creepy. Then we waited in line forever to go up 33 more stories to the Sky Dome, which gave an even better view. Atlthough they were scared at first, the kids loved it. Alexander can't stop talking about being the the world's tallest building. I don't think he quite understands that it's the antennae that make it the tallest, not the SkyDome level.

We then went next door to the Rogers Center to see the Blue Jays play the Rockies. It was my idea of a perfect game. The Blue Jays won 5-0 in 2 hours 15 minutes, and we saw Frank Thomas hit his 499th homerun. We also ALMOST saw a no-hitter, which was broken up in the 9th inning. It was a very exciting game, and we had great seats, despite being in the top level. As Chris said, after being in the CN Tower, our seats seemed close.

Once the game let out, we ate vendor hotdogs that were $3 less than in the staduim, then walked to the Hockey Hall of Fame. We're not big hockey fans, but admission was included in the family pack we purchased, so we checked it out. It was exciting to touch the Stanley Cup, but all we needed was an hour there.

We then walked through a mall (noticing it was similar to every other mall in America) and took the subway/train/bus home. After dinner at McDonalds (yuck) we crashed at the hotel. Kids were all asleep by 9PM, so we should be able to get an earlier start tomorrow. It was a fun day. It is mentally tiring taking three kids around a big city, so we're also ready to crash.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Summer Trek, Day 15

We spent most of the day today in the car. After leaving beautiful St. Ignace via the Mackinac Bridge (above), We drove to Flint, Michigan to visit their chidren's museum, which turned out to be small, but fun. The boys had a chance to work off some energy climbing the rock wall and playing with their vehicles. We then drove to Toronto. We got through customs easily, but suspect it won't be so easy on the way back into the US. The line to get into Canada was significantly shorter than the line to get into the states. We'll cross that bridge (literally and figuratively) when we get to it. We're staying east of Toronto in a hotel operated by Centennial College. Small room, but it was cheap, and it has internet access as well as an indoor swimming pool. We're all set.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Summer Trek, Day 14!!!

Pictures just added: Four boys walking toward Lake Huron at our hotel, B and A playing by Lake Michigan, B and A on top of a hodog, and saying goodybe to the Elmquists.

Wow, day 14! It's hard to believe we've been gone for two weeks already. Today was a long day. We said goodbye to the Elmquists this morning, then started driving across the northern part of Wisconsin. What a beautiful area. We expected dairy farms, but this section of Wisconsin has forests and rolling hills. We drove on one of the backroads, a first for us, and enjoyed the scenery immensely. Mom and Dad Weinrich love taking backroads instead of highways, and now we understand why. That being said, however, we will be back on the interstate tomorrow. It's a faster, more direct way to travel on a long mileage day.

Since we knew we had about eight hours of driving today, we did some research on the web and found two places to stop. Our first pit stop was in Rhinelander, WI, home of the "hodog." We found a great playground for the kids, and it was right next to a train, logging, schoolhouse, and OUTBOARD MOTOR museum complex. We found everything but the outboard motor section interesting.

A few hours and a new time zone later, we ate lunch in Escanaba, Michigan. We found a park right on the beach of Lake Michigan. It was at this point we realized we are going to see at least 4 of the Great Lakes on our trip. The boys had a chance to play on the playground, and dip their toes in the lake. Then we piled back in the car for another few hours.

We are now at our stopping point of St. Ignace, MI. We are just north of the Mackinac bridge and can see the island from our hotel room, which is right on Lake Huron. It is so calm and peaceful here, plus they had a warm indoor pool and free breakfast! For dinner, we tried the local specialty, "pasties," which are basically potpies you can eat with your hand. The kids are finally asleep at 10PM, mostly because the sun doesn't set here until about 9:30!! We should be able to see the sun rise tomorrow morning.

We're off tomorrow for Toronto. We won't be using our cell phones while in Canada, due to 75 cents per minute charges. We will have internet access, though, and hope to update at some point.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Elmquist Family!!!

We're here in Rice Lake, visiting with the Elmquists. We haven't seen them since they moved at the end of December. It's neat how the kids were so excited to see each other and just started playing as if no time has passed. They've been playing happily now for almost 24 hours, with little to no fighting! It made us realize how much we've missed all of them. The adults stayed up late last night, just talking and catching up.

The town of Rice Lake is very quaint. Could we live here? In the summer, definitely. In the winter, probably not. There's something about their street that makes us sit lazily on the front porch, just relaxing and enjoying ourselves. We took a walk to Rice Lake, which was beautiful and only a few blocks away. It's a lovely midwestern town, made even better by the company and wonderful hospitality.

Tomorrow we leave for Michigan, and they leave for vacation in Ohio. We're spending some time today shopping and packing up our van. They have copied us once again and bought a Honda Odyssey just like ours!!! This is the second time we have had identical minivans. Hopefully we'll see them again soon, when they travel to Florida!

Fun in Duluth

Last night we left Duluth. We did a variety of things while we were there. One of our favorite activities was watching the weather change. Duluth has the strangest weather! It can vary from hour to hour. On Sunday, I sat on the front porch and watched the fog roll in. It was amazing. Some days we could see the lake from their house, others we couldn't. Here are some pictures from Duluth. On the last day, Dave rode his bike (downhill) to work. Some of the pictures are from our visit to the aquarium. You can also see that Liesl liked watching the boys on the back porch. We had a wonderful time visiting with Dave, Jodie, and Liesl, and can't wait to do it again!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Marathon pictures

Can you tell I am finally updating all the pictures? Here are pictures from the half marathon and full marathon. We didn't get any pictures from the 5K because it was raining AND our camera batteries have just died.

A few extra Indianapolis pictures

When we were in Indianapolis, we stopped at the NCAA Hall of Champions. As you enter and look up, they have banners hanging with the champions of every collegiate sport from all three divisions. We also found the Gator mascot, as well as a basketball commerating Duke's win over Kentucky!

Wisconsin Dells pictures

We had a great time at the Dells. Here are some pictures from the hotel water park (!!!) and the actual Dells. We spent hours at the water park. In the morning, it was too cold for these Floridians to go outside, so we started at the indoor water park. Then we ventured outside. It got too cold by 7:00, so we ended the day inside. Boy, were we waterlogged. The boys thought this was the best hotel ever, and actually, so did we!

An Ode to Alexander

Last night, as we were packing up to leave Duluth, I took the laundry out of the washer and discovered I had inadvertantly washed my cell phone! Yes, the phone I am using to try to get a job sometime this summer, the phone that has all of our contacts in it! Forgetting Alexander was standing there, I said to Chris, "I am such an idiot!!" Alexander looked at me very seriously and said "You're not an idiot." I told him he was right, I just felt like an idiot. Then I told Chris that we do not have $200 for a new phone (again forgetting Alexander was right there.) Alexander got tears in his eyes and said, "You can have my $10. I don't really need a souvenier, anyway. Do you have $190???" Isn't he the most thoughtful, sweetest boy ever??

This morning, I put my phone back together after it had dried out, and it worked!!!! So I guess he will get to buy something afterall.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Happy Father's Day

For Father's Day, Chris got to do his favorite thing: go to a baseball game. Chris, Benjamin, and Dave drove to Minneapolis to see the Brewers play the Twins. It was a great game, even though the Brewers lost on a 9th inning walk-off home run! When they returned around 7PM, we had steak (the Weinrich's) and Boco Burgers (Cope/Schaeffer), followed by a Dairy Queen ice cream cake. Yummy!

Our niece, Liesl

We've been staying with Dave, Jodie, and Liesl since Thursday night. Liesl is two weeks away from her first birthday, and she is adorable. She totters around the house, going from one toy to another. She can say "wow" and "ball." The boys love her. Benjamin and Alexander read books to her, which is her favorite thing to do. What fun it is to be in a house with a baby again. Especially when we don't have to get up in the middle of the night with her!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Marathon Update

Real quick update:

Last night, Alexander, Chris, and Karen ran the 5K. Alexander had a personal best of just under 36 minutes!!

Today, Karen ran the half marathon and had an awesome personal best of 2:11!!!! The last marathon was 2:28, so it was quite an improvement. Dave ran the full marathon and finished just under 3:45! A great running weekend overall. Hope to post pictures sometime soon!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Summer Trek, days 5 & 6

Day 5: Wisconsin Dells (as dictated by Benjamin)
We took a boat trip along the upper part of the Wisconsin Dells. We rode on a boat called the General Bailey. It had an upstairs and a downstairs and fitted more than 100 people. When we started our tour, there were a few signs of civilization, like houses and a resort. Farther down, there grew less and less of these signs.

Indians used to inhabit a lot of the upper dells. There are even a few cliffs named after them. One of them was named romance cliff. To determine if their marriage would last a long time, the priest threw a torch down into the water. If it reached the water without going out, then their marriage would last a long time and nothing would happen. But if the torch went out before it hit the water, the woman had a chance to push her husband off the 80 foot cliff into 100 foot water.

The indians named a few rock shapes. One of them is a triangle, and is called the giant shield.It is about 6 feet tall and rests along the water line. Once, the water touched the top of giant's shield.

After the boat trip, we spent 5 hours (about) swimming in the water park. There were two sections; one was outside and one was inside. The outside park had a lot of things to do, including two water slides, a lazy river, and small areas for kids to play in. One water slide is named Tahiti Twister. When you ride on it, you have to have an innertube, either a double or a single, and you have to be 36 inches tall. Then, you put your inner tube on top of a fountain which holds it there until you are ready to go. You sit down when the life guard allows you to, and then the lifeguard pushes you off. If you are in a single tube, you may ask the life guard to spin you, which sends you spinning around in circles, and sometimes you end up going backwards.

We're out of time, but Benjamin has lots more to say about this later.

Day 6: Wisconsin Dells, Rice Lake, and Duluth (by Karen, who is short winded)

As I write this, I am at the Elmquist's house in Rice Lake. We spent the morning getting our final rides at the water park. Then we drove to Rice Lake and got to see Jeff's church. We're at their house now, having dinner, and will then move on to Duluth (we'll be coming back here in a week for a longer visit.) Our posting will be a bit spotty, due to limited internet access, but we'll try to post something after the marathon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Summer Trek, Day 4 (a little late)

Due to technical difficulties, we were unable to post last night. The hotel tells us the fire doors were interrupting wireless internet. Whatever.

Yesterday we drove all the way from Indianapolis to Wisconsin Dells. Our first stop was Normal, Illinois. Yes, the city is called Normal. We stopped there because they have a children's museum that has reciprocity with our local museum. It turned out to be one of the best children's museum's we've been to. We stayed for over two hours, exploring Japan, farming, the human body, and lots of other smaller exhibits. If Port Orange ever creates a children's museum, they will have to take a field trip to Normal.

Our next stop was Madison, WI. We met our good friend Seamus Wedge and his "adopted grandmother" at Ella's Deli for dinner. What a great place! It's insane. They have stuff everywhere. We saw an automated Mighty Mouse (and felt our age when the kids didn't know him) and a carousel. Even though we've been on the carousel at Disney a million times, we let the kids take a ride. It is vacation, after all.

After saying our goodbyes, we drove about another hour to Wisconsin Dells to stay at the Polynesian Hotel. It has indoor and outdoor waterparks. More on that later. We let the kids get in the water for awhile until they fell asleep exhausted at 10 PM or so. It is vacation, after all.