Monthly Archives: August 2014

When vacation feels like home

A few weeks ago we went on vacation to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We actually took the train from St. Louis to Chicago and then drove up to Milwaukee from there. We had A BLAST.

We (Chase, J, myself, and my parents) left on a Saturday morning out of St. Louis and the train ride took 6 1/2 hours. This is a little longer than driving, but no one had to drive. Plus, J LOVED the train. In a car he would he have been in his car seat strapped in a 5 point harness barely able to move. No wonder he hates the car. In the train he was able to walk around, sit on his knees and look out the window, play games, and more! He was incredibly excited when cars would have to stop for US at the train tracks, you know, instead of the other way around like it usually is. We would wave out the window to the people as we passed the crossing.

We arrived in Chicago early Saturday afternoon, and took a taxi one mile down the road to pick up our rental car. The taxi was no joke. Those taxi drivers definitely do not follow the rules of the road, let alone laws. Craziness. But we made the one mile safely, the blessed one mile. After we picked up our rental car, we drove a few more miles down the street and then around in a large circle since we missed the correct street, and finally made it to the Willis Tower (which will forever be the Sears Tower). First though, we had a snack at the busiest McDonalds ever, and then we went across the street to get in the 3 hour line to go up to the top of the tower. It really is worth the wait though. You can see everywhere in Chicago. That was my second time to go up, but Chase’s first time to see it all. He was brave and had his picture taken on the walkout portion of the skydeck. J also stood with him, but he seemed pretty oblivious to the scariness of it.

After our one thing in Chicago, we took off for Milwaukee and stopped at Panera on the way for supper. We made it to our hotel sometime after 9pm and we were pretty beat.

Sunday we all had trouble waking up, but we somehow did it, and made it to the Historic German walking tour at 9:30am. When we arrived we were told the tour had sold out so there wasn’t room on the bus, but they were super nice and told us we could drive our own car to meet them at the start of the tour. It wasn’t really that far away, so it was back to the car, and off to the starting point. We learned so much on our walking tour! A ton of Germans immigrated directly to Milwaukee between the 1850s and 1900. By 1900, 1/3 of Milwaukee’s population was German immigrants. And some of these people were my great grandparents! My grandparents were second generation German immigrants. How cool is that?!
There are three rivers that run through the city, the Menomonee, the Kinnickinnic, and the Milwaukee which flow into Lake Michigan. The three rivers divided up the city when the Milwaukee was first settled. Another thing I loved about the tour was seeing all the old buildings, churches, and cathedrals still standing. Most of the German immigrants were either Catholic or Lutheran and you can still see one church or the other every so many miles throughout the city.
After the tour, we went to GermanFest and ate some schnitzels and J and I rode a lift over the whole GermanFest to see it all from up above. After that, we went back to the hotel for nap time, and then went out to eat at Georgie Porgie’s Treefort Restaurant. They had amazing cheeseburgers and the atmosphere was really family friendly! After we ate we went to Woodman’s, which is the biggest grocery store I have ever seen. No, seriously. They had everything you could ever think of, and the prices were super reasonable! It quickly became one of my all time favorite stores. That evening Chase and I went to see a movie while J stayed at the hotel with my parents and played in the pool before bed time!

Monday we had a tour scheduled at the Clock Shadow Creamery, the only cheese factory in the city of Milwaukee. We learned how cheese is made and watched a little of the process, and then we bought a bunch of yummy, so good, cheese! After the tour, I asked the tour guide where the best place was for lunch to experience Milwaukee food. She suggested the Milwaukee Ale House. A-ma-zing! They were located right on one of the rivers so the view was fantastic! Although we had to eat inside, because it was too chilly. That’s the thing about traveling north, the summer’s are way cooler up there! And that specific day was a little chilly, highs in the 60s. The Ale House had some of the best fried cheese curds! All of their food was so good. After lunch we went to Veteran’s Park which is right on Lake Michigan. We bought a cheap kite thing and tried to fly it (note to self, bring our own kite next time) and walked the trail around. It was beautiful! On one side is the lake and the other side was the skyline of Milwaukee. After the park, we went back to the hotel to nap, and then Chase and I took J down to the pool! After some fun in the water, we went to Cousins Subs to eat some good sub sandwiches, and then we found a Sendicks market (another grocery store) and bought some cheese curds. Because it wouldn’t be the best trip ever without some squeaky cheese!

Tuesday Chase and I took J to the beach. On our way we dropped my parents off at an Antique Mall downtown. We went to Bradford Beach and although it was beautiful it was not the beach experience you would normally have on a beach in Florida. The high for the day was in the mid-70s so that morning it was just a little chilly for water, but add to that the extremely cold Lake Michigan and “Brrr!” There was also a flash flood a couple of weeks before we came that caused one of the sewage drains in a nearby town to overflow into Lake Michigan so the water was still environmentally not the best for playing in. But we put our feet in and made an extremely sad sand castle. It was mostly sad because we didn’t know what we were doing and only had cups for building.
After we went to the beach we drove a few miles to the Historic Third Ward. It’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places and we had walked through it on our tour on Sunday. A lot of the businesses and restaurants are still owned by 3rd and 4th generation German residents. I wanted to go to the Spice House. As soon as I walked in my senses were overwhelmed. My nose picked up a million different spice scents and I saw wall to wall herbs and spices. I bought some Saigon Cinnamon, Maple Sugar, and some Herbs de Provence. I have already used the Herbs de Provence in a recipe and it is SO good. If you ever run across this mixture of spices, buy it and use it! By this time we were starving and decided to eat at a nearby Italian restaurant. A policeman was coming out as we were walking in and he held the door open for us. He asked if we were coming in and I said I thought we would check it out, he responded that we wouldn’t be disappointed. He was right.
After lunch we picked up my parents and drove another couple of miles (seriously, everything is that close together) to Purple Door Ice Cream. They are said to have the best ice cream ever. I can’t really disagree. I’m pretty much an ice cream snob, and their ice cream was probably the best I have had in a long time. They have a ton of different concoctions. I like my ice cream pretty plain, but I branched out and had Honey Vanilla. You could taste honey in every bit of it. YUM!
We went back to the hotel for nap time and then we went out to eat at Miss Katie’s Diner. President Clinton and Michelle Obama have both eaten there along with a few other famous people. The food was really good home cookin’ food. Plus the 50s theme of the diner was fun. After supper, we went to Gander Mountain and scored some clearance and then back to Woodman’s because I really did love that store.

On Wednesday we woke up fairly early and drove back to Chicago. We had just enough time to go to Millennium Park and see the The Cloud Gate, aka The Bean, The Great Lawn (where they host concerts), and The Crown Fountain, which is basically two large towers with water cascading down the sides. J loved The Crown Fountain. I knew my parents would appreciate the “Bean.” I loved it the first time I went to Chicago. We had a quick lunch nearby at Subway, well, most of the family did. I ran across the street and grabbed lunch at Toni Patisserie & Cafe. I had a baguette filled with fresh tomato, huge slices of soft mozzarella, gruyere, and some fresh basil. Yum! After lunch we hurried to the train station where Chase dropped us all off more than hour before our train was supposed to leave. He took the car back to the rental place and walked the mile to the train station. He said it was a pretty awesome walk through downtown Chicago. We left Chicago around 2pm and arrived in St. Louis an hour later than scheduled. During our train ride we decided to eat on the dining car because it was super time and we were feeling pretty hungry. Food on the train is so expensive! But it was still a neat experience.

Thursday we drove back home after staying in St. Louis for the night. It was such a great trip! I loved almost every minute of it. I really enjoyed Milwaukee. I loved it so much that I kept telling Chase I wanted to move there (minus the actual moving part). The town felt like home! I loved every part that we saw. I loved how so much of the historical neighborhoods have been restored and are still around and while at the same time everything is very modern. I loved how three rivers ran through the city and a lot of businesses and restaurants were on the river banks so you could walk or eat on the side of the rivers. I loved how the town always seemed so clean (even though the Lake needs a LOT of work environmentally). I loved the suburb we stayed in, Oak Creek, and how peaceful the town seemed and all the shopping that was close by, yet it was only 15 minutes from downtown Milwaukee. SO MUCH FUN!

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Posted by on August 25, 2014 in Uncategorized


This is how we potty train

Today is J’s second day to be in big boy underwear. He is 3 1/2. And I am so proud of him. Up until now something, instinct maybe, told me it just wasn’t time to potty train. He didn’t want to use the potty and had no interest in it. Once last year, I put him in big boy underwear for half a day and he just didn’t get it. I promised myself years ago that I wouldn’t be the mommy who pushed potty training. I was going to wait until he was ready. I had two main reasons for this thought. One: I didn’t want to have to be on him all the time asking if he needed to go or cleaning up messes. Two: I wanted him to do it when we both knew he could do it and do it well.
Every parent makes their own decision on this and on everything else regarding how to parent. We decided this didn’t phase us as parents. The “when” didn’t matter. We are the kind of parents who make sure you put your shoes up where they belong every time and always say please and thank you and pray before meals and bedtime. But we aren’t going to force the learning years, those first 3-5 years, to go faster than they need to. I had several moms that just didn’t get it. “But you have to BUY diapers” “He is 3!” “You should just make him do it.” “You have waited too long and missed your window.” and so on. I have heard it ALL. And ignored it all too. Instinctually, I knew it wasn’t the right time. The average age for a child to learn to use the potty on their own is 3 1/2! That means if someone can do it when they are 18 months than someone isn’t learning until they are 5 years old. And so what! Everyone is different. Even adults learn things on their own time.
On Sunday I knew it was time to switch to underwear. How did I know? I have no clue. I just knew. It was that gut feeling! So I told J he was going to start wearing underwear on Monday and we talked about it pretty thoroughly. He totally understood it all. Monday morning we were both as nervous as the other! And on a side note, I also figured out I don’t have time for potty training bootcamp. I have too much going on to stay home for 3 days straight! So Monday morning we went to the gym and J went to the kids gym and while he was there, he let the lady know he had to use the bathroom. He totally got it. Sure we had some accidents when he was completely concentrating on something else, but nothing horrible. What I love about it is, he gets it. He understands exactly what is going and what is required of him. This afternoon I was talking on the phone and all of a sudden I hear him running down the hall. I go to check on him and he is sitting in the bathroom, all by himself, without even letting me know, because he gets it.
So to all of you moms who potty trained your child at 18 months, kudos to you not having to buy diapers anymore! But I think my little boy is awesome for completely getting it from the start. 🙂

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Posted by on August 5, 2014 in Uncategorized