Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Crystal Cave

After our visit to the Little House Wayside, we drove about 20 minutes north to visit Crystal Cave in Spring Valley, WI. The boys have been begging to go to the cave since last summer, and we've been promising to take them and then forgetting about it. I wanted to get this trip in before the end of the summer, and I am so glad we did! We spent the night at Auntie Sarah's in Wausau, and then drove west for our day of adventures!

The cave tour is well done and the cave itself is very navigable. Our tour guide, Amanda, did a nice job and taught us a lot about the history of the cave, bats and, of course, crystals! The boys got to help "lead" the group into the various chambers and were careful not to run or touch anything. They got a little chilly in the 50 degree cave, but at an hour long, the tour was just long enough. We emerged from the ground and headed over to Prospector's Creek to do some gem panning!

The boys each got a bag of mining rough and poured it into their gem pan.

They had to screen and slide it through the mining sluice to make the gems and minerals appear. And appear they did! They both squealed happily as shiny gems separated from the dirt. They uncovered quite a few gems, and I was impressed with how much they found in one small bag!

Liam's eyes lit up as he looked at each gem and carefully placed them in his prospector's bag.

Max picked through the mining rough for every last sliver of treasure and filled his bag right up!

We had fun sitting in the shade afterwards identifying our gems with the supplied gem identification card. 

Max is getting very good at reading and was able to sound out most of the types of gems in his bag, including calcite and crystal points.

We were at the cave on a Monday, so I'm sure that is why it wasn't very busy, but I really loved feeling like we weren't rushed and weren't in a huge crowd to do everything. We were able to take our time and do whatever the boys wanted to do. They even got to pick out one shark tooth each at the gift shop! They couldn't believe their luck! ;)

This was the perfect way to end the summer. The boys were great travelers, we got to visit with Sarah and we got to spend some quality time with just the three of us.

End of Summer Trip

Aaron went back to school yesterday, and the boys and I took off for a quick end-of-summer trip! We have been reading the Little House books and the boys are very into them. I decided we would stop at the Little House Wayside in Pepin, WI to see where Little House in the Big Woods began. I took this same trip with my family when I was younger, and I wanted the boys to experience it, too. They were SO excited when we finally arrived!

I remember the house as bigger somehow, but I have to remember that I was much smaller when I was first there! We had fun imagining Ma lighting a fire and getting dinner started...

...and looking out the "plate glass windows that Pa brought from town!" (according to Max!)

Liam really liked the house and the property, but Max was especially taken with it. I told them that this was a reproduction house built to closely resemble Laura's house. Max did not care because to him this was Laura's house.

"Take a picture of me at the table, Mom!"

"That is where Laura and Mary slept. They would put the ladder here and then climb up," Max said.

It's fun to imagine the Ingalls family all living together in this small, cozy house.

It is no longer in the middle of the Big Woods of Wisconsin, and Liam kept saying, "I can't believe they cut all those trees down." But we had so much fun imagining where the wagon wheel tracks had gone past the house, where the two big trees had stood out front and where all of Black Susan the cat's relatives might be today!

Max wanted a picture in what he thought might be Carrie's room.

One other family was there when we arrived, but they soon left and we had it to ourselves.

I could see the wheels spinning in Max's head as he just looked and looked at everything. He wanted his picture taken in the yard, too.

I'm so happy to be able to share these books that were such a huge part of my childhood with my kids. They listen intently to each chapter we read, and they remember things down to the smallest detail. It was great to bring Laura to life for them here, and we are already planning our future trips to the other Little House historic sites!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Uncle Dave's Part VI: Velcro Heads

Every year for camp, I fill a special prize box with toys, games and books for each day of the week. This "velcro head" game was popular with children AND adults this year!