Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

7 years + 9 months

Emily comes up with all kinds of big ideas.  This month she wanted to put together a big backyard carnival and invite four families.  She made tickets and thought of rides and booths.  [Un]fortunately, she got distracted by RAGBRAI.

After watching "Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension" Emily has been making plans to make a sequel called "Across the 3rd Dimension."  She has cast herself as the ultra-cool Candace from the 2nd Dimension.

Who knows what she'll come up with next?!?


It's hard to believe, but I have never been to Adventureland in Altoona, IA, so I was excited to join most of Austin's family for a fun day.  The weather was absolutely perfect.  It took Emily a little while to warm up and figure things out, but she had a great time.  She even went on the log ride and a lot of water slides!  Lincoln talked big about going on roller coasters, but stuck to the kiddie rides and the lazy river with me.  His favorite ride of the day was the bumper cars.  A huge thanks to Grandpa & Grandma Lorenzen for a fun day filled with great memories!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bremer County Fair

It's one of our favorite times of the year--the Bremer County Fair!  Now that the kids are older, it's even easier to stroll the two blocks to the fairgrounds and check out what happens to be going on.  It was an absolutely perfect week of weather.  The kids & I went five out of the seven days--sometimes more than once/day.  We spent four hours there on Tuesday alone.  We hit the food stands, completed the Clover Kids scavenger hunt, watched part of the dairy show, ate ice cream twice (Emily got popcorn from the Democratic Party booth 3x), watched several different demonstrations, attended the 4-H carnival, and of course, looked at all the animals.  The kids (especially Lincoln) desperately wanted to go on the midway rides on Tuesday, but I wouldn't let them since we were going to Adventrueland the very next day where everything would be bigger, better, cleaner and safer.  I'll probably let them take a little of their own money to waste when they show Andjelka around this weekend. :)
Petting Zoo
Make-a-frame workshop

Garden stand

Every year we seem to have an overabundance of something out of our garden.  This year it's raspberries and cucumbers.  I picked 21 giant cucumbers from our five hills last night.  I tried giving a bunch away.  Then I let the kids set up a table on the lawn to sell them.  They made $10.00 in 45 minutes before Lincoln started bawling as they fought over a "Minnesota" state quarter.  At that point I decided to shut 'er down for the day.  Emily is now scheming about other things to sell.  ;)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

First 4-H project

Since Emily was a Clover Kid this year, she was able to take a project to the fair.  I didn't know exactly what to expect for her, but I was in 4-H for seven years, so I knew how to do a proper 4-H project.  We'd been trying to think of something for months, but it finally dawned on me to just let her take the "Upcycle Dolls" she had already made.  Emily picked some of her favorites, and I offered some suggestions to improve the display she had already made for the library.  She included some of her origami objects, and I got to play with my Cricut machine. :)

This was the final result:

I found out a write-up (i.e. goal card) is optional for Clover Kids, but I had Emily do one anyway complete with inserted pictures.  It was the first time she had typed up anything, and she did a great job!  She explained what upcycling is, talked about Camp Invention, mentioned her donation of items to the Upcycle Fair at the library (hello, citizenship!), cited the web site she used for origami instructions and listed two things she learned: It's cheaper and more fun to make things yourself, and it helps the environment to use things you might just throw away.  Then we did a practice session talking to a judge with me playing the role of the judge and Austin as an audience.

The "judging" itself was kind of a letdown.   It turns out a Clover Kids project is just a show-and-tell with the judge who sweetly says, "Boy, you've been busy!  What do we have here?  You did a great job!"  There were no deeper questions, and the judge hardly even glanced at the write-up.  The kids just get a participation ribbon and some coupons for the fair.  Afterwards, Emily remarked, "Boy, Mom, yours took a lot longer!"

Overall, it was a great experience, though.  I think Emily got a feel for what it's like to do a 4-H project, and she was very excited about having her stuff on display.  We're proud of our Clover Explorer!

Solar cars

A friend had informed me about the American Solar Challenge race that was scheduled to pass right through Waverly this weekend.  Teams of college students build solar cars that compete in week-long, cross-country races.  This year's race was from Austin, TX to Minneapolis, MN.  I followed the Iowa State PrISUm car online from Omaha to Marshalltown.  I thought we would miss them in person, but as we were driving home from church, we passed the team from Montreal.  Then we passed the ISU car halfway to Waverly.  We parked at the corner where they had to turn onto Bremer Avenue so we could take a picture.  Not something you see every day!  The ISU team ended up finishing 3rd in the competition.

Team car from Montreal
ISU car on Hwy 218
ISU turning onto Bremer Ave.
Heading to a 3rd place finish

Sunday, July 6, 2014


We chose Chicago as the destination for our family trip this summer.  Austin travels to Chicago quite a bit for work, so he's somewhat familiar with the city (although he doesn't go to the tourist attractions).  The kids have never seen a big city or a large body of water like Lake Michigan.  It had been 10 years since I had been to the Windy City.

Ready to roll!
We arrived Thursday night and checked into our hotel.  Friday was the 4th of July.  Our big activity of the day was Shedd Aquarium.  Both kids loved the water show.  They also got to touch several animals.  The video of Lincoln pretending to be a penguin is in the July play list.

We enjoyed lunch on the terrace with a gorgeous view of the Chicago skyline.

After checking out the swimming pool at the hotel, we experienced Chicago-style pizza.  It was late by the time we were done eating, so we sat down in Millennium Park to watch the fireworks display off Navy Pier through the trees.  We were far enough away that we barely heard the booms, but it was just fine. 

Before leaving the park we had to take a picture by "The Bean" (aka Cloud Gate).

It was a pretty short walk back to our hotel, although still very crowded.  Let's just say the kids got a glimpse of mass humanity. :op

Our second day featured a trip to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower).  We took the subway to Shedd Aquarium, so today we took the "El".  Lincoln was fascinated.  Riding the "train" was the highlight of the trip for him, although he said he preferred the underground subway because it went faster. :o)

The wait time to get up to the Skydeck was almost 90 minutes, but the line continually moved and there were lots of displays and different things to look at along the way, so it didn't seem that long.  We spent a long time enjoying the views of the city.  Emily later said the Willis Tower was the highlight of the trip for her.  Both kids were fearless on "The Ledge" which is a see-through plexiglass ledge that sticks out from the top floor.

Instead of taking the train again, we walked to the lakefront and took break by Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park.  Lincoln got a kick out of trying to feed the birds (see video in July play list).

Then we walked along the lakefront all the way to Navy Pier.  It was quite a distance (which we heard about), and we had to take several breaks, but we made it!  The pictures below are suppose to show how tired and miserable the kids were and then how happy they were to finally make it.  Navy Pier itself was very crowded because of the holiday weekend.  We just looked around a little before heading back to the hotel to go swimming.  According to my new FitBit Flex, we walked 6.75 miles that day!

We got an incredible deal on our hotel thanks to a contact Austin had.  We stayed at The Langham (the first 14 floors of the black building in background) downtown on the river right next to the Trump Tower.  I didn't realize until we got there that it was the #1 rated 5-star hotel in Chicago on TripAdvisor.  It was definitely the nicest hotel I've ever been in.  This was the lobby overlooking the river.

The swimming pool was on the 4th floor.  We spent a lot of time there.  The kids even got in a hot tub for the first time!

The room was over the top.  The kids got a real kick out of the turn-down service at night.  They also loved flipping the switch for the privacy glass between the bathroom and sleeping area.

 They also enjoyed the view out of our 8th floor window.

Despite the amazing accommodations, Emily's overall assessment was that she'd rather stay in a lower class hotel where we could eat [continental] breakfast.  We packed our own breakfast food and gave strict instructions about not touching anything in the well stocked mini bar or food drawers.  I think I might agree with her when it comes to family trips.  However, I have to say the complimentary Nespresso was superb! ;o)

Our last morning was spent at the Adler Planetarium.  I'm sad to say I wasn't terribly impressed.  We did get to see the cool Destination Solar System show in the domed Grainger Sky Theater.

We had to stick our toes in Lake Michigan before leaving.  It was COLD!

As we headed out of town, Austin showed us where the Concur offices are in Oak Brook, IL and the Marriott next door where he spends most of his time when he comes to Chicago.  We also had to take part in the Portillos experience.  It didn't disappoint!  (Okay, so it didn't disappoint me.  The chocolate cake was ahh-mazing.  The kids weren't too excited about the poppy seed hot dog buns.  Their loss.)

It was a fantastic trip.  We had great weather and the kids did awesome.  The highlight of the trip for me was seeing them experience so many things for the first time.  Great memories were made--and that's what it's all about!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Upcycle Fair

The Waverly Public Library held an upcycle fair this summer and asked for display donations from the community.  I helped Emily put a display together of her toilet paper tube dolls.  She also brought the pinball machine from Camp Invention and a marble maze she made out of cardboard and drinking straws.  One of the librarians interviewed Emily about her items and put a neat write up by the display.  We heard later that lots of kids enjoyed trying out Emily's items!

Making a "rug" for the upcycle doll display
Making a sign
Upcycle interview

Final display