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Great Wolf Lodge

A couple weekends ago, Tyla, Elijah and I headed to Great Wolf Lodge for the second time. It was quite a bit different from our first trip because we were already familiar with the layout so there wasn’t a feeling of discovery and we were more careful/cheap with our time there. Instead of staying two nights, we stayed one night and made use of the water park on the day we arrived and the day we left. They’re quite generous with those policies so it worked out well. Another difference is that Don, Logan and Megan came along and I think they had a reasonably good time.

When we were at Disney, I had specifically picked a hotel with good water slides. He was afraid to try them until almost literally the last minute. He finally got the nerve to try one and LOVED it but we had to leave immediately to make some dinner reservations. That was our last chance at the pool. He was pretty sad but I think it taught him a good lesson. When we got to the pool this time he looked up and said, “Daddy, which slide is good for me?” Yes! I was very proud. We started on the yellow and red slides in the middle and he loved them. After doing those a few times, he was ready for even bigger challenges, He went down three of the bigger slides and loved them all too. The only one he didn’t do was the Howlin’ Tornado and he wasn’t tall enough for that. I was incredibly proud of him for his great attitude and willingness to try those slides!

It was neat seeing him so confident in the water too. He’s progressing quite well in his swim lessons. One I watched him get knocked off a play structure and land in the water. He immediately rolled onto his back and started floating and motoring to the side. I think he’s going to have a great time when we visit my parents this summer and spend hours in their pool.

So even though Great Wolf Lodge is a mess of screaming kids and thinly veiled attempts to vacuum money from your wallet, it was a good trip. Thanks for organizing it Tyla!

 

Memorial Day In Seaside

For the past few years, we have gone on a Memorial Day vacation with Tyla’s family. Don has a timeshare and is kind enough to share it with us so we have a convenient place to stay.

This year we headed to Seaside, OR in the northwest corner if the state. Our room looked right out onto the beach and the condo has a heated outdoor pool and a couple of hot tubs. Those pools got a good workout and it was fun watching Elijah motor around under his own power. He has a pretty good handle on swimming on his back.

Aside from digging in the sand and flying kites on the beach, our main activity was a trip down to Garibaldi, OR. Tyla and I were in Garibaldi with her family exactly 10 years ago camping there for the weekend while her dad did a job at the nearby Tillamook factory. This time we rode the steam train and afterwards, we attempted to visit Tillamook. It was insanely crowded and we basically walked right back out the door and headed back home.

This year we drove down on Saturday morning and came back on Tuesday. It was so much more relaxing to make those drives without the huge amount of traffic on Friday and Monday. It was still heavy but nowhere near as slow as we’ve experienced in the past.

Thanks again to Don for being so generous and letting us all share that condo with him!

Best of YouTube

About a month ago I wrote a post about how people on the internet are manipulating your emotions. Destin from Smarter Every Day completed four videos that are extremely helpful in understanding what’s going on and how to protect yourself from it. This is the kind of thing that I think will be critical to teach our kids as they grow up in a world that looks very different from our childhood. (Video links: 1 2 3 4)

Matt Cremona built a ridiculously nice tool storage cabinet. The highlight for me was how he used bookmatched pieces of wood surrounded by epoxy. They look incredible and the process for making them is wild as well. The video below should link directly to the point in his video where he talks about them, but if not, jump to 4:26.

Rocket powered golf club? Yes please!

Illinois Funeral

As I mentioned in the previous post, Grandma Martens passed away on Easter. I was very thankful to be able to make a quick trip back to Illinois for the funeral. It was a very memorable trip!

Buying last minute tickets means that you get to pay top dollar for the privilege of scrounging through what everyone else has left behind. My flight left at 6am on Friday morning and I was back by 10pm the next day. I flew out of the new Paine Field passenger terminal. I have never seen a terminal that looks anything like that place. It was so fancy! But aside from the luxurious surroundings, it was very nice flying out of such a small airport. Parking is easy and TSA agents outnumbered the passengers in line by about 10 to 1. Assuming the price was right, I’d definitely consider flying out of there again.

I was able to get a cheaper flight on United with their “Basic Economy” fare. The main differences were that I couldn’t choose my seats ahead of time and I was only allowed a small carry on that would fit under the seat (or a checked bag.) I took it as a challenge and did the whole trip with only a backpack! That was a little tricky since I wanted to bring a suit but I flew out there in my suit and hung up the jacket during the flights and it all worked out very well.

My flight connected through Denver and then went straight to Moline, IL. Both were small planes but having a seat assigned at the last minute worked out fairly well. I got an exit row one time and on the flight back I had an empty seat next to me on both legs of the journey.

With all the flights and layovers, I was very thankful for two tech gadgets:

  1. Anker 20100 mAh battery pack – We used this on our Disney trip too and even with rapid charging phones multiple times, it still has gobs of power left according to the meter.
  2. NordVPN – I signed up for NordVPN and while I think their signup site is a little shady in how it always implies that you’re about to miss out on a crazy deal, I do like their service. It’s very fast and let’s me safely connect to the internet on shady airport WiFi.

Once I landed in Moline, I was met by Mom and we headed straight over to the visitation. We had some time as a family before the doors opened and wow, once they opened it seemed like there was a line out the door for two hours! The final tally was well over 200 people in addition who stopped by. All four children were their with their spouses chatting with all of the visitors while the cousins milled around in the back catching up. Obviously it would be nice to catch up with everyone under different circumstances, but it was still nice to see everyone and since we were all confident that Grandma was in heaven because she believed that Jesus paid for her sins, the mood was not super somber.

After the visitation, the family split up and I was in the group that went out to a Mexican restaurant for dinner and I finally ended up back at Uncle Dean and Aunt Sandy’s. A huge thanks goes to them for letting Dad, Mom and I stay there in addition to both of their kids’ families! It was a full house but I slept very well after such a long day.

Saturday morning we headed over to Zion Lutheran Church in Taylor Ridge, IL. The weather was giving us all it had that morning with 30-40 mph wind, heavy rain and temps around 40 degrees. The forecast not too far away in Iowa was calling for 3-6 inches of snow!

Grandma had left lots of ideas for her funeral service and she picked some great topics and hymns, praising God for sending Jesus to save us and encouraging all of us to stay strong in our faith and join her in heaven.

I was a pallbearer along with some of the other cousins. We braced ourselves against the weather and carried he casket out to the hearse, followed it across the street to the cemetery and then brought it into the tent. As we made that trip, the church bell tolled once for every year of Grandma’s 93 years on earth. That tent looked like it was going to blow away but it held up for the graveside ceremony and managed to dump a bunch of water down Uncle Mark’s back not once, but twice.

We made our way back over to the fellowship hall/gymnasium for a luncheon put on by the church. Thanks to all of the families who brought food and put the lunch together!

Everything about the morning felt like it was out of a movie, except that while there was sadness, the overwhelming emotion was one of joy and hope. We’re thankful that Grandma was so active up until that last month, and it’s extremely comforting that she shared her faith every time we talked to her. There’s no doubt that she was welcomed into heaven with open arms because Jesus had saved her from her sins.

From the church, Mom took me back to the airport and I had an extremely wild ride up to cruising altitude for the flight back to Everett. I was very thankful to be connecting through Denver instead of Chicago because over 600 flights were canceled in Chicago that afternoon because of the snow. Our little plane got bucked around very strongly by the winds and hail but we made it out.

I was in Illinois for a little over 24 hours, but there were a lot of memories crammed into that small time frame. Thanks to everyone who made it happen including Tyla for staying home with Elijah and Mom and Dad for giving me rides while I was there. I’m so thankful I could attend! While I hope we have another reunion at some point, it’s hard to imagine ever collecting that much of our big family in one place at the same time.

 

Dad and Mom Visit

My parents flew out on Good Friday to spend a week with us and it was a very unusual trip! The oddities started on the trip home from the airport as Tyla, Elijah, Dad and Mom were in the Escape and got rear ended on 405. Thankfully everyone was ok and the other driver had insurance with Progressive. Progressive was great to work with and we had the car back from the shop by Wednesday.

The next surprise was that Grandma Martens passed away on Easter morning. Having it happen on Easter made those Easter hymns all the more wonderful as we thanked God for her strong faith and her entry into heaven. But those of us left here on earth had to do some scrambling to adjust travel plans and get ready for the funeral.

Even with the modified schedule, we still crammed in a lot of fun activities. Dad and Mom got to attend one of Elijah’s baseball games and we had a big family dinner on Sunday afternoon. We also got to take them up to a chapel service at Zion Lutheran where Elijah will attend first grade next year.

While we all wished they could stay longer, we were thankful for the time we could spend together and we’re looking forward to seeing them again this summer when we fly out to Indiana!