Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Trip to Illinois!

We got to take a long weekend trip to Southern Illinois this past weekend. So, what is in Southern Illinois, you might ask? Well, nothing, really... but it was the halfway point between us and our friends who moved a year and a half ago. So we planned to meet there at a hotel with an indoor pool and just hang out together and let the kids have fun! Their sons, Matthew and Ryan, are about the same ages as our girls, and Caroline and Matthew were good friends... so they were excited to see each other again!

Here they are playing in the hotel lobby... crawling around and pretending to be snakes, I think. We didn't tell Caroline who we were visiting until we were about 20 minutes away from the hotel! We woke her up that morning by saying, "We're going on a little vacation as a birthday surprise!" So we got dressed and finished loading the van, and we were off! We left at 8:30 with bagels for breakfast in the van, since we'd be driving the whole way in one day. It wasn't a bad drive at all - about seven hours plus a few stops. We got there at almost 5:00 our time, 4:00 Central, and we took the girls swimming for a bit while we waited for the Zidariches to arrive. When they got there, Matthew looked through the window to the pool and commented that somebody was swimming - he didn't recognize us, and Kara and Kevin hadn't told him who they were going to see there, so he was taken by surprise too!

We went out to dinner at Bob Evans right near the hotel and then back to hotel - Cecilia crashed and slept until nearly 6 am without waking (unusual for her), she was so exhausted from a long day (my children do not nap in the car - weirdos, huh?). Caroline went to bed too - later than usual for us since we were on Central time - but Kevin took Matthew to swim for a bit before bed, since he hadn't gotten to go swimming yet!

In the morning, we were up, dressed, and in the breakfast area at 7:00 Central... first dibs on breakfast! They had waffle irons and scrambled eggs, sausage, and biscuits, along with the more typical continental breakfast items such as bagels, instant oatmeal, cereal, and yogurt.

Since it was supposed to rain all day and was actually only drizzling very slightly off and on that morning, we decided to do something outside while we had the chance. There is a nature preserve nearby, so we went there to walk on a trail and see what else we could find to do there.

Here are the kids all walking along the flat, paved trail (ie: little kid-friendly) that went to the pond by the visitors center. They got to run along and get some energy out!

Cecilia lagged behind a bit....

...but she didn't mind!

And here are all the kids by the pond - there was a floating dock that we walked out on. There was a cold wind blowing, so we didn't stay here too long!

Cecilia doesn't smile on command very often, ha ha... maybe if it is just me taking her photo, but not with anyone else. It's always a challenge to get her to smile at the photographer at Sears! ;)

Here is the visitors center. It turns out that they were having a monthly family program at 10:30, so we went in for that. It was about kestrels, a type of falcon. That makes it sound like it is a big bird... at least, I pictured a bigger bird when I heard the word "falcon." This one was quite small. It had been injured and had a wing that didn't heal well enough for it to be released back into the wild.

Here's Cecilia sitting with Chris while watching the lady hold the kestrel on her hand.

After the presentation and questions, the kids all got to do some kestrel-related crafts. Here they are, all lined up: Ryan, Cecilia, Caroline, and Matthew!

Caroline and Matthew worked on cutting out a square which they (uhh, the dads!) folded into one of those Chinese fortune teller thingies (that is what I call them anyway; I don't know what they are really called! Caroline called them "pinchy things.")... see a few pictures down for a picture of Matthew's after it was finished.

Ryan and Cecilia were happy to scribble with crayons.

The artist at work... she takes it seriously! She had one of her feet up on the back of the chair at one point while she worked. ;)

Here is Matthew's "pinchy thing," which has bird info typed on it.

Cecilia found another kestrel picture to color.

In the lobby area of the visitors center, there were displays (of course, my children walk in and announce, "Look, dead animals!!). There were skins of a raccoon, skunk, deer, and rabbit, along with stuffed and mounted "dead animals." Cecilia found some actual living animals: the fish, which she talked to for a bit as she watched them swim back and forth.

After lunch at McAllister's Deli, we headed back to the hotel for naps - we even convinced Caroline to take one since she'd been up late the night before and would likely be up late again. So, after Cecilia slept for nearly two hours and Caroline for one (and Mommy too! ;), we went down to the pool. Unfortunately, we discovered that it was packed with people... it had to be way more people than cars in the parking lot, and we noticed that somebody was holding the door to let people in (you had to have your room key to get into the room where the pool was). So we assumed that these were random people whose friends were staying at the hotel and had invited a bunch of non-guests of the hotel. Kara went to mention this issue to the front desk... it was just not a pleasant swimming environment, being so loud and so loaded that there was barely room to move around. The people at the front desk explained that they rented the pool out for parties for $75 per hour! How disappointing, when we chose that hotel due to the indoor pool in large part! And time-wise, it didn't work out for us to come back at another time. Luckily, the crowd left after awhile, and we did get a good half hour of swim time without fifty other people in there!

After swimming, we took showers and baths and then went - bowling!!! Aren't these kid-sized bowling lanes just so cute?? I had never seen anything like this before! And it was cheap - under $6 for both girls to bowl, shoes included (although they had none in Cecilia's size, so she just kept her boots on)!

Matthew did really well at sending the ball down the lane with lots of force! He ended up winning the game!

Cecilia takes a turn... good thing the lanes went very slightly downhill toward the pins, and they had bumpers, too... so even Cecilia knocked down some pins with the ball going about a quarter mile an hour! ;)

Watching the ball sloooowly make its way down the lane...

Caroline's turn... she tried it this way a few times, but she seemed to prefer squatting down and giving the ball a big shove.

Ryan claps after his ball knocks down some pins!

Cecilia chooses a ball... they were smaller than her head, ha ha!

Cecilia after pushing her ball onto the lane

And here are all four bowling champions! I think that Caroline came in 2nd, Ryan 3rd, and Cecilia 4th... in the order of their ages!

After bowling, we went to dinner at a pizza restaurant called Walt's. They are "famous" for their double-decker pizza... yum!!! It was delicious! We also had the "taco nachos," which are supposed to be a favorite there as well, but the pizza took the prize in my opinion!

It was late again, especially considering daylight saving time beginning the next morning... by the time the girls got to sleep, it was past 10:00, soon to be 11:00 to us! But it was worth it for the fun we all had and the time spent with friends! Then the grown-ups all sat out in the hall and played cards and eating cookies that were provided at the front desk - mmm! I ate way too many of those while we were there!

The next morning, we had breakfast downstairs again and headed right out to Mass since it was Sunday. There were several small towns all within about a 15 mile radius of the hotel, and each small community had a Catholic church, so we had lots of options. We picked the one that worked best for us time-wise, about 10 minutes up the interstate. The girls did surprisingly well even though they'd had lots of excitement and less sleep over the past two days! Cecilia had a meltdown at the very end of Mass, during the announcements... pretty good that she made it that long!

Back at the hotel, we packed up while the kids played around in the rooms... we had adjoining rooms, with a "secret passage" doorway between them, and the kids took turns hiding and finding each other (mostly Caroline and Matthew, although Ryan played a bit as well). One of the best hiding places was in a cabinet in the dresser, under the microwave shelf! They also hid behind the curtains, in the closets (who ever heard of closets with actual doors in a hotel room?), and Matthew hid on a chair underneath his mom's coat, all curled up - he was so still that nobody knew where he was!

Since it was rainy and cold and we knew the kids would be cooped up in the cars soon, we went over to the McDonald's to let them climb in the play area. This was one of the best play areas in a McDonald's that I have seen in quite a while. It had lots of tunnels and nets up high, two or three tube slides, and it was just really big - almost like an old Discovery Zone or Jump 'n' Gym place. Matthew and Caroline kept very busy, while Ryan puttered around at the bottom and Cecilia climbed up, got scared or fell or overwhelmed, and had to have Chris climb up and rescue her. She went back up and it happened again... and then she finally decided to stay down close to the bottom! She was just so tired (but of course, not enough to fall asleep in the van on our almost three hour drive to Nashville! ;).

Sorry for the bad lighting... here are Caroline and Matthew in one of the climbing parts. They were so sweaty by the time we left!

The adults were all still pretty full from breakfast, but the kids started getting hungry... Matthew and Ryan ate there in between playing, and we got some food to go and took it on the road for our lunch.

Just before we left, all four spent some time running around, being silly!

Happy, energetic children! They enjoyed spending time playing with their friends!

A few parting shots before we said our goodbyes and headed on our way... I think Ryan looks just adorable in this photo in his little overalls, doesn't he??

So we headed to Nashville to stay there overnight with Chris's parents so we could break up the long drive home... and the Zidariches headed off to drive a few hours and stop at another hotel on their way back home. What a fun time we all had - we will have to plan to do this again next year!

1 comment:

Lucy said...

This isn't a comment about your post per se, so you don't need to publish it. I just wanted to invite you to "Kids say the darndest things Friday" blog hop at:


We’d love to have you join the fun and share your stories. I’m sure that you have some real gems!

In Christ,