Saturday, March 17, 2018

Spring Break Five

We are (were) in the car heading back from an excellent 4 day “spring” break getaway of sledding, soaking, skiing and museums and our longest as a family of six (when I started to write this, but then we had to make an unexpected nursing stop to end the baby fussing and then the other kids had 2,314 immediate questions so what i expected to take me from Butte to Belgrade has taken 2 days.  We can pretend we were traveling via Conestoga).  Here’s the highlights:

1.  Our first stop was Fairmont Hot Springs, which was our original destination for a couple days . . .  until I went to book and the total cost reminded me why we are not a resort vacation family.  I'm not sure if it was the final price or the idea of sharing a standard hotel room with our whole family for an extended period of time that spooked me, but for a day trip, it was perfect!

We started with a “picnic” in Butte on the way.  Getting out of the house and scheduling meals on our trips is one of the biggest hurdles to travel.  We have a pretty sweet picnic system down and it often breaks up a trip nicely for potty and nursing stops, but it's definitely easier in fair weather.  Not only was this park covered with snow, but the area was covered with trash and broken glass and enough evidence that nothing good probably happens in the parking lot.  The kids however were none the wiser and all want to go back and play more!

3 kids carrying most of their own crap to the pool upon arrival #parentingwin

We stayed way longer than expected because everyone was having lots of fun.  This is a huge milestone as our kids are hit or miss about staying at the pool.  Spencer LOVES the warm water though so a happy baby to start helps!

We booked a great little VRBO about half an hour away and I had packed a brilliant meal to put in the Instant Pot, until I realized I forgot my Instant Pot at home and we were leaving the pools a couple hours later than expected..  Womp. Womp.  Luckily it gave us a great chance to try an “original” pork chop sandwich at Peppermint Patty’s in Anaconda.  We all approved of their extra fried, extra delicious menu!

2.  We took our first family ski day!  Well, we were at least all at the same ski area at the same time.   It started out a Bluebird day!

But by the end it was snowing hard with big wet flakes.  I was super impressed with the kids, they skied hard and it was so fun to see all they learned in lessons this year.   It will be bittersweet whenever Spencer finally weans, but the thought of getting in a full ski day more often than once a decade is pretty exciting for me!

However, Spencer took on the role of ski lodge bum quite nicely :-)  We had plans for everyone to ski and take advantage of the nearby XC trails as well with Spencer, but our ski day got changed on the weather forecast and we went from a leisurely morning plan to rushing out the door to ski in about 15 minutes, so not all the details got worked out.  James took one for the team and hung out at the lodge with Spencer instead!

Then there was poor John.  We didn’t quite know what to do with him as he's just past the age for riding too long for XC ski without losing it, so we signed him up for kinderski.  He LOVED  it.  “School Ski” as he calls it was hands down his favorite part of the trip!  We were super impressed with the staff and everything they had him do and by the hour it was cheaper than babysitters are in Bozeman so we’d definitely do it again!  John also was in his element as the teacher’s all kept telling us how great he was and mostly how chill he was.  I’m not certain I’ve used chill to describe John in about 2 years 😂

This was John getting on the "big" non-bunny slope lift!  The big kids and I did this run a few times and while I don't know how long it was, it is definitely long lift and covers 1,200 vertical feet on the way down.  I'm not sure how his little legs did it but they did.

You can’t be in the area without a trip to Sweet Palace so we ran to Philipsburg for groceries, and in case we got snowed in...plenty of candy!
Decisions, decisions!

And even better was the family apres ski hot tub back at the VRBO!

Not a bad view!

3.  Our second day was supposed to be full of awesomely bad museums (or at least so I assume about any place called a Prison Museum Complex) but with 5-9" of snow falling, we decided to call it a day to be "snowed in" at the apartment.  We took advantage of the terrain for some awesome sledding and a few more hot tub visits.
Spencer was an ultimate hill supervisor while I held sleds, lest we lose a child to the hill . . . again.   Spencer and were summoned from some post-nap snuggles when Catherine knocked on the door and said "Mom, John slid all the way down to the road by himself."  The situation was not quite as dire as she relayed, but we all learned that John does not understand how to turn or bail when sledding :-)  Luckily James rescued him and then took a few sleds to the chest as he blocked the kids from that path in the future.

Both kids even felt brave enough for some snow baths, though Matthew was the only one goofy enough to have me video it :-)

And we made a snowcave for 4!

I regret not taking a pic of how deep the snow was off the deck, but it was deeper than John most everywhere.  It was quite the herculean feat for him to climb up onto the snow!  Thankfully he wasn't heavy enough to fall through.

It was a great time unintentionally offline with no cell or wifi service, but the kids did get plenty of time with shows they don't normally get to see via the satellite and James and I did get to check in with March Madness a bit.  It can't be spring break without a bit of basketball!

Spencer had an awful lot to say about the day:

4. We wrapped up our final day with a stop in Butte.  First we had time to kill before our scheduled museum tour so we headed to the mall as I had a vague idea they had an indoor play area.  That was almost all their mall supported and it wasn't much, but it was just enough for James and I to catch up on a few lingering emails and voicemails while the kids played.  There's not much more adorable than John's Hippo impression!

We contacted the Mai Wah Museum for an off-season tour.  It was another fantastic glimpse into pre WWII Montana and Butte's Chinatown and we will definitely put it on our calendar to be there for the Chinese New Year parade next year!

We also hit up Silver Bow Pizza.  It has been completely redone since the last time we went and the games work, it's light filled and super clean.  The kids had a blast!  It took 2 visits (lunch and a later dessert stop) to spend their $5 game cards as they kept wanted to do the free rides with this adorable sidekick instead!  

And a quick stop at the Mineral Museum at Montana Tech because glow in the dark rocks are always cool.  It was quite an impressive collection overall!  It reminded of stopping in at UW's geology department with my dad when I was little!

5.  The big kids won mini-whoopie cushions at the pizza place because we were in our last couple of hours of vacation and I gave up.  Through some miracle of modern math they collectively earned 600 "tickets" which meant there were approximately 3 million combinations of toys they could "buy" and they were trying to weigh the pros and cons of each combination to maximize the amount of cheap plastic to bring home and thus, I okayed whoopie cushions.  John finds them hilarious which I find hilarious because his laugh is contagious and with that we are home, trying to unpack, clean rugs and in general control our house chaos . . . now with 200% more whoopie cushions.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Sunday Five - We bought a tank

1.  We are in trouble!  Spencer started making significant forward motion this week.  No clutter in the house is safe anymore.  The big kids are especially disappointed as they like to leave scraps of “very important notes” all over the house and Spencer finds them to be delicious snacks.

2.  Our pets are not particularly smart.  June has access to nearly 1/3 an acre of real estate on which to exist and Olivia literally could go wherever she wanted in Bozeman/Montana/North America as a free range cat, and yet they all hover in the 3 square feet surrounding Spencer.  I feel no sympathy for them as they consistently Park themselves in harms way.  Maybe Liv just misses Sky drooling on her and Spencer is a good substitute.  I used to think chasing the cats would be motivation for crawling, now I wonder if Liv is trying to prevent it as often as she plop herself down in Spencer’s way.

3.  We bought a new car finally!  We bought a new to us camper this summer to accommodate our growing family but needed a beefier car for towing than our poor minivan that we had already exploited to the maximum towing capacity with our little camper.  The gist of having 4 kids and wanting to tow something limits the search to Suburban-esque vehicles, none of which we particularly loved or are particularly cheap.  A salesman showed us the Nissan NVP on a whim and it not only met most of our requirements but brand new it was 10s of thousands of dollars cheaper than the  used Suburbans.  So now we own a 12 passenger van that looks like a tank.  We can’t wait to test it out over spring break on some mini-trips.

Obligatory dealer photo.  The kids were just DONE and wanted to get this thing home!

Everyone loaded in with plenty of room to spare, including Tenney, Catherine's musician doll that she will tell you all about :-)

4.  Spring is kinda here, but I feel we will be dealing with snow and ice for quite a while!  Either way we have all been eager to enjoy the sun and test out some Christmas gifts finally.

We just started our annual "pretend to clean out and organize the garage" series of weekends.  The new van and new camper literally don't fit in the garage so at least we don't have to pretend our end goal is cleaning out both bays for cars.  I don't know exactly what the kids were doing or why Catherine had to borrow my phone to take approximately 97 photos like this, but they had fun and stayed out of our hair and played all day with the neighbor so I'll call it a win:

We also still rely heavily on puzzles to keep John non-destructively quiet and entertained so we can work on projects.  It oddly works, though Spencer is a definite distraction:

5.  Poor Spencer is on week 5 of not feeling well or having an ear infection or both.  I think the only day he has not been sick in some way was literally the day of his well-check last week.  His post-vaccine fever/cold from last week turned into bronchiolitis and some freight-train style breathing and wheezing, so we're on nebulizer treatments for the week.   He really is an overall happy chunk though, even when he's sick.  He even still sleeps fairly well . . . except now he is awake all hours of the night breakdancing and spinning around in his crib.  We're all hoping for that to end very soon! 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

West Yellowstone Five

1.  This is our fifth time attending KidsNSnow and each time I think we have more fun than the last!  In 36 hours we got to dogsled, swim, water slide, ice skate, snowmobile, sled, have s’mores, and take a snowcoach, all for the cost of one night in a hotel.  To show our appreciation for such a great event and saving us so much money on activities, I am happily willing to support the local economy with a few meals out :-).    If you haven’t been it’s well worth the trip for a weekend or even a long day.  Our trip almost didn’t happen as planned when Spencer spiked a fever after his shots and we were uncertain if John was finished with the worst of his cough from earlier in the week but here we were ready for our first fun road trip as a family of six, busting out of the seams of the van for an overnighter :-). Though to be fair, once you add swim and snow gear, another couple days wouldn’t have added much more gear.
2. First up was a ride with the sled dogs! 

Then it was pancake time 

And we searched for “animals” around town!

Though the kids could just play in the 2 and 3 story snow piles around town all day!

3.  We have learned to strategically book the Days Inn as they not only have a pool but a water slide as well! 

Fun with slo-mo!

Hot tub selfie!

4. The best part of KidsNSnow are their evenings in the park.  Even with exhausted kids, they stayed and closed the place down at 9p with skating, sledding and snowmobiling!

John was so proud of his skating skills and Catherine did really well too! 

John was also pretty enthusiastic about playing some hockey.

Catherine has gotten really good.  The lessons she took on her school field trip seemed to have really made an impact!

Spencer took some turns sledding:

Which was one of the few times we saw Matthew.  One of his friends was there so he abandoned us most of the evening for time with his buddy.  With one baby sleeping in the carseat under a blanket and 2 others who needed help on the ice it worked out well!

And all 3 big kids took a run on the snowmobile:

And s'mores time!

It was nearly 10p before we got everyone settled, but eventually they were all in PJs and even more surprisingly we all fell asleep in the same room.

5.  They had stopped offering snow coach trips for a while but are now back to offering these great opportunities.  While the 2 hour ride doesn’t get you in to geysers, it gets you into the park spotting wildlife and is the perfect length for little ones.  Plus the vehicles are super cool too!

One our first spots was a bald eagle:

Spencer slept most of the ride so we passed the baby to sleep and the big kids to spot and take turns poking their heads out of the roof hatch!

On the banks of the Madison.

John taking his turn riding shotgun with our excellent guide Bob.

Bison down by the river:

Another great year and great weekend and proof that we can all survive a short getaway together :-)

Spring Break Five

We are (were) in the car heading back from an excellent 4 day “spring” break getaway of sledding, soaking, skiing and museums and our longes...