Earlier in the year we were thinking of going to California for spring break and visiting Wendy and family. When we called to find out dates, etc., Wendy told us there was a little problem with the plan. Zach had won an honor and his company was going to fly him and Wendy to Italy for a week at a fancy seaside resort. The same resort Justin Timberlake got married at, the Borgo Egnazia resort in Puglia, Italy. That same week the boys had their break. She suggested that they bring the boys with them to Chicago, we meet them there, and we take them back to Cedar Rapids while they were gone. Perfect!
Monday – April 7
The Copleys weren’t scheduled to arrive in Chicago till 6:00 in the evening so we had plenty of time to get there. We always have trouble taking the right road going into O’Hare Airport so I suggested that we just meet at the motel. Zach said there was a shuttle to the motel so we decided on that. In the end, they missed the first shuttle, but they called us when they were leaving the airport and we went down to the lobby to meet them. We had already checked into our room which was right next door to theirs and as soon as they were settled in, we all went across the street to a Longhorn Steakhouse for supper. The boys took the opportunity to capture Grandpa’s likeness on their place mats.
Tuesday – April 8
Wendy and Zach’s flight didn’t leave Chicago till 9:30 at night, so we packed the boys up early. Wendy and Zach spent their day going downtown to shop or whatever. We got a new van last year that had a TV screen for the rear passengers but we had never used it before. We figured out how to make it work, mostly. On the drive home they watched Toy Story 3.
Karen had done some research and discovered that there was a John Deere Pavilion in Moline, IL. When we were at the Science and Industry Museum with the boys last year, there was a display of several pieces of giant farm machinery that Wyatt and Augie particularly liked. The John Deere Pavilion had all these machines and many more; combines, tractors, bulldozers, rice cultivators, tree harvesters. You could climb up in all of them. They also had some simulators so you could practice running the machines. And it was free to get in.
When we got home we showed them where we kept the toys and got them settled into their room. They spent the rest of the afternoon playing and finding their way around the house and yard. For supper we made home-made sausage pizza. Augie helped roll out the crust and Wyatt added the sausage and cheese toppings. After supper we all had a well-earned dip in the hot tub. The hot water took a bit of getting used to for the boys but they were soon lounging by the jets and grooving on it. At bedtime, Karen read stories to end the event filled day.
Wednesday – April 9
Karen had several activities planned for the day. The first was to mix up a bunch of Snickerdoodle dough with her helpers. It has to chill so you can work it properly. After it was assembled, into they refrigerator it went, ready to be rolled and baked later in the day.
We had also gone to Lowe’s to get a couple of woodworking projects. We got pirate ships and banks. The boys chose the pirate ships to work on first. We bought a kit for them each and the kits contained about 14 pieces, not counting the hardware and the sails. It was almost a disaster. The kits were made in Southeast Asia somewhere and the steel nails were as soft as copper. They kept bending every time you tried to pound them in. But we persevered and got them all put together. Then we took them down by the shop and spray painted them. We never did get around to making the banks and returned them after the kids had gone home. We would not recommend the kits to any other grandparents out there. The boys were game but it was too hard for them to have any real success without adults doing all the work.
Our friend, Lynne Carlson is a horse riding enthusiast and invited us to the barn where the horses she rides are kept. One of them was Albert, a “rescue” horse. He is probably a Shetland pony and a little skittish. We saw bigger horses too. The boys were wary of them all but did a brave job of getting up next to them and giving them a rub on the nose. They were most interested in the big round bales of hay stored at one end of the barn and were intrigued with climbing on them.
After that we drove a little ways down the road to find my Abbe Creek School letterbox. The boys do some letterboxing and geocaching in California and I thought they would like to find one I planted myself. I gave them the clues to find it verbally. Once discovered, we looked at the journal inside. Most letterboxers register their finds so I know about them, but some don’t and it’s always a treat to see who has found your box.
A little further along we got to Palisades Park.
We wanted to stop there because you can get right up next to the Cedar River. Both of the kids had turns at throwing rocks into the river. Augie spent as much time collecting rocks as he did throwing them and Wyatt was particularly delighted with stomping around on the muddy bank, caking his shoes so much he could hardly lift his feet. He thought it might not have been as fun as he first thought when I made him scrape it all off before he got into our clean car.
Next stop, Bever Park playground. This place is just a couple of blocks from our house and is usually pretty fun. They have been there before and like going there.
Back home it was time to bake the cookies. You get a spoonful of dough and roll it into a ball. You are supposed to roll it around a pan of cinnamon to coat it all over. Last time our other grandson Ben was here he hit upon a more efficient way. Instead of rolling the balls around with the palm of his hand, he moved the pan like he was panning for gold. This is a much easier process and Wyatt and Augie took to it right away. After the cookies were baked we had to try them out of course.
After our supper of Chili dogs for Wyatt, G’ma and G’pa and Corn dogs for Augie, we watched a video of Puss-In-Boots, then off to bed. You may have noticed that we are not maintaining the highest standards of nutrition, but hey, we were all on vacation! And both boys ate huge lunches, always with just a little room for more.
Thursday – April 10
The big activity Karen planned was to go to Des Moines. Our motel had a water park built into the center of it but you couldn’t check in till 4:00 in the afternoon. We had lunch at Bennigan’s which was close by the motel and then went to the Blank Park Zoo. I don’t remember ever going to the zoo when I was a kid and lived in Des Moines, but maybe I did. As we walked in you could hear the lions roaring and we tried to get close up to see them, but when we found them they were way on the other side of the pen and had tired of entertaining the crowd anyway. It was a little early in the season so some of the attractions hadn’t started operations yet. We were sad to have missed the train that goes all around the outside of the park to give you an overview of what was there. They had started running the merry-go-round however and we gave that a go.
Another thing that interested them was the hippo water fountain. It wasn’t even turned on yet, this early in the year.
Most of the animals were pretty skilled at keeping you from having a good look at them, but we did see some ostriches and rhino. I don’t think the zoo turned out to be the biggest hit for the boys.
In the general direction of heading back to the motel, we took a tour of my old neighborhoods. The first house I lived in, on Merle Hay Road was torn down years ago because of termite damage. When I lived there, there was a cluster of commercial buildings around the intersection of Merle Hay Road and Urbandale Avenue. Everything else was residential. But with the passage of time and the ever increasing traffic on Merle Hay, one by one, the houses in our neighborhood have give over to commercial. Of the 8 houses on our side of the street that I consider my home range, only 3 of them are left and one of them is derelict. We did drive by the other house I lived in, at 4111 52nd Street, but it was pretty much the same and of little interest, especially to the kids.
It was a short hop back to the hotel and we played in the water park from 4:00-7:00 pm. The kids had a great time. The park was divided up into different attractions; a shallow pool with a pirate ship that was bristling with little water slides, another stand alone slide, a deeper pool (3’6″-4″ deep), a great big 2-slide 3-story water slide, a lap pool and a hot tub. The kids could go on all of them but the hot tub that was reserved for adults. I made the mistake of taking our electronics poolside. With thousands of dollars worth of cell phones and hearing aids that could get stolen, I figured that either Karen or I needed to stay with our bags while the other grandparent played with the kids. Note to self – leave electronics in motel room next time. I did get a short dip in the hot tub and a cool-off in the tepidarium next to it, but I didn’t really get to do anything with the boys.
We had dinner in the motel restaurant which wasn’t that great, but it was ok. Three hours playing in the water does wear boys out and Augie nearly fell asleep at the table. When we got back to the room it was bedtime for sure.
Friday – April 11
We had breakfast in the motel restaurant and were in the pool again from 9:00-11:00am. We held it back to 2 hours because we had to get back to the room to check out by noon. We left our electronics in the motel room and without having to worry about anything getting stolen, we had a lot more fun. We all got in the water and Wyatt rode the big slide scores of times. Augie jumped into the lap pool with NO adults there to catch him. He did a great job!
Our plan for the day was to go to the Science Center IMAX and see the movie, Island of Lemurs. The movie was pretty good, but the theater is a domed IMAX and is almost unwatchable. The seats were 6″ too narrow and very uncomfortable.
Once we were back in Cedar Rapids we had chicken quesadillas for dinner and because of all the things we did during the day, we were all happy to go to bed early.
Saturday – April 12
Wyatt and Augie are limited in their screentime at home. But this is vacation at Grandma and Grandpa’s and some of the rules aren’t enforced quite as diligently, hey.
We all went to Target so Karen could buy the kids some clothes and toys. Augie got a ninja dragon action figure set and Wyatt got a tin of Pokemon cards.
In the afternoon we went to see Mr Peabody and Sherman.
Later, Greatgrandma Paddy and Greataunt Lisa came over for a visit. We had hamburgers and potato chips on the porch since the weather was so nice. We told the boys it was “family time” which meant chatting, telling stories, and getting to know their relatives which they seemed to enjoy. Both boys are great conversationalists and have a great sense of humor.
I reintroduced Augie to the activity of nail pounding which he particularly excelled at the last time he was here. Wyatt had a shot at it too and also displayed exceptional skill. He also filled the bird feeders while the rest of us were chatting. At the end of the day we watched Toy Story 1 before going to bed.
Sunday – April 13
In the middle of the night we were visited by a particularly boomy thunderstorm. It continued as pouring rain all the next day which resulted in even more screen time than we we would normally have allowed. Lance, Cherise, Rachel, and Ben visited in the afternoon so it was nice that the cousins got to see each other. We had nachos for dinner, stories and bedtime. This was the first night that Augie asked about his mom. He wanted to call her in Italy but since that wasn’t practical we settled on writing an email about his new dragon. He was satisfied with that and was happy to see her response when he got up the next day.
Monday – April 14
Wendy and Zach weren’t scheduled to get back to Chicago till 6:30 at night so there was no need for us to break our necks getting there. Before we left I called the motel to see what the arrangements were. There was a problem. Wendy and Zach were in transit the whole time and therefore, incommunicado. I sent Wendy an email hoping she would see it when she got to Munich, but I don’t think she received it till she was already home. The motel had lost any records of our reservation and there were no more rooms available there. Fortunately, there was another motel just across the street so we got a room there. As we cooled our heals in our room, the confinement as a result of the rain yesterday and the long drive today made the boys the tiniest bit naughty. Not too bad, but we sure didn’t want the vacation to end on a sour note.
When we left Cedar Rapids it was a little bit gloomy but it wasn’t raining or anything. By the time we hit Davenport we started seeing just the lightest flurry of snowflakes. The snow increased as we drove along but the temperature was above freezing so it never stuck to the highway. It was starting to accumulate a little in the grass and trees on either side of the road. By the time we got to Chicago and our motel, there was about an inch of pure, white, sticky snow on the tops of things. It was a delight for the boys. They have seen snow before of course, but being from California they are not as steeped in snowlore as their Midwestern counterparts. Augie was right onto trying to make snowballs but wasn’t sufficiently skilled in his technique. I made him a nice apple-sized snowball which he promptly pasted Wyatt with. The snowball fight was on. The snow was perfect, sticky but not icy. Neither wanted to touch the snow directly with their hands so they tried to pull their sleeves down far enough that their fingers wouldn’t get cold. After a while they started to get the hang of it.
When Wendy and Zach finally made it to their hotel we zipped over for the big reunion. Lots of hugs and kisses and stories about the past week ensued! Everyone was pretty tired and we left to go back to our hotel so they could get some sleep.