Saturday, April 9, 2011

Our Wisconsin Vacation

We weren't able to afford big vacations while you were growing up - homeschooling is a wonderful thing, but it does tend to limit the income.  That is okay; there is a cost and benefit to every choice we make in life, and we were always happy with how that balanced out when it came to our decision to homeschool.

But we did have one vacation.  We spent several days in the Wisconsin Dells, staying at a hotel with a water park.

You loved that water park - it was not terribly large, but it had slides, a giant aligator with gaping jaws, floating islands, a water basketball game, deep water and shallow water, hot tubs and cool pools.

Your favorite game was when Daddy threw things in the deep pool for you to find; you dove down like a little duck and found every one.  That was a new skill for you, and we were all very proud!

We also went to many of the attractions - Robot World and the Reptile Garden were fun, we had a great time playing mini-golf, you got to actually drive one of the famous Wisconsin Dells Ducks all by yourself.  We had a magical horse-drawn wagon ride down the Hidden Canyon, where somehow the sky was sunny and the day was not overly cold, but snow drifted gently down and frosted the trees and ground - it was so beautiful that we held our breath in wonder.

And we made a special one-day trip to the House On The Rock, where we played every single clockwork musical machine, spent a long time dazzling our eyes and ears in the underground Carousel Room, and explored every nook and cranny of that house full of colorful, noisy, tacky, amazing, fascinating stuff.  The one thing I could not make you or daddy do is go out and look down onto the tops of the trees from the floor window of the Infinity Room - even then, you and daddy shared a distrust of heights, although yours was not as intense then as it is now.

We were very glad that you were lucky enough to have a grandma and grandpa who could take you on all the wonderful vacation trips to far-off places.  It was important to me that you see how varied, fascinating, and wondrous the world is.  I wanted you to experience what travel could be, and you couldn't get a better role models for that than your grandma and grandpa.

But I hope that our Wisconsin vacation and all our little 'adventures' down the River Road will be held as treasures in your heart, the way they are held in mine.  Grand trips are wonderful things to be appreciated and enjoyed, and held forever in the memory - but adventure and joy can be found even in very small moments and in places close to home, if you set your mind and your feet in the right direction!

Friday, April 8, 2011


When I was little, my mom used to fix up baskets for Buff and I.  She filled them with clear green plastic 'grass', and then get out the Paas easter egg dyes.

The Paas easter egg dyes came with a little copper wire 'dipper', a number of colored tablets, and some punch-out cardboard strips printed with grass and flowers or bunny faces or other spring/easter themed illustrations.  The strips were designed so that you could arrange them in a little circle that worked as a sort of stand for some of your eggs.  There was also a cardboard sheet with holes cut in, which theoretically would allow you to stand your eggs in it to dry, but which we didn't like to use because the eggs would end up with bits of cardboard hardened and dried onto them, and because the cardboard edge would rub a pale ring around the bottom part of the egg.

My mom would hard boil some eggs, and then fill up custard cups with vinegar and warm water, and then add one tablet to each cup.  The tablet would release the dye, and then we could color our eggs by dipping them in the various colors.  Some eggs we would dip partway in one color and then partway in another, some eggs we would layer by dipping in one color after another.  Over time, as we dipped eggs into one color and then another, the dyes got muddier - but in some cases they also got more interesting and intense than the original primary color dyes.  Sometimes these more complex colors would 'break' on the egg, so that the egg seemed to be one color with another color or two speckled onto it, as though it had been airbrushed.  These were my favorites.

After each egg was dyed, we would put it on a folded white kitchen towel, which would end up with bright spots of dye all over it when the eggs would dry.

Once the eggs were dry, we would choose which ones would get the cardboard bands, and then we would nestle the eggs into our baskets and put them in a special spot for the Easter Bunny to find.  The next morning we would find some special treats in our basket - there might be little toys, and usually there was a few larger candies - often a hollow chocolate rabbit and some chocolate-covered marshmallow rabbits and/or eggs.  Once or twice we got large spun-sugar eggs that were hollow and had a decorated hole on one end, and when you looked inside there was a little candy scene inside.  These eggs were no good to eat, really, but they were very pretty, so I really liked them and would keep them for quite a long time.

But my favorite part was that every Easter morning we would race around trying to find all the shiny little foil-wrapped chocolate eggs that the Easter Bunny had hidden everywhere.  There were eggs under the couch, on top of picture frames, inside the stereo cabinet, behind books in the bookshelf, inside flower vases, tucked behind paintings, hidden beneath the wax fruit in the bowl... you never knew where you might find those special easter treats.

We would collect all the eggs in a pile on the table, so that we could split them fairly after our hunt was over, and somehow mom and dad knew when we needed to keep looking... usually.  Every once in a while I would find a stray egg hidden in some odd place long after Easter had come and gone.  I suspect that Buff occasionally had the experience, but neither of us was silly enough to tell the other one - after all, how could two people share one little tiny chocolate egg?


When you were little, you had problems with your blood sugar, so a lot of chocolate or candy eggs were not a possibility for you.  So mostly the Easter Bunny hid plastic eggs with small toys and Legos inside, and there would be a bigger toy left in your Easter Basket.  Luckily you found this just as exciting as Buff and I found those chocolate eggs.

But some things stayed the same from generation to generation - we still went to grandma's house and had a wonderful time using Paas dyes to make easter eggs, and happily tucked them into your special basket!