Friday, April 04, 2008


My dear friend Cara invited me and the kids to Timber Ridge Lodge yesterday. Going to the Auto Show by myself was daring; this was foolhardy. But, The Boy had a great time, The Girl had fun, and The Baby went with the flow. As for me, I think I need to spend more time in Wisconsin, as I found it to be truly Midwestern in a way that Chicago just isn't. Chicago no longer seems to be

Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog
Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with
Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.*

But Wisconsin? Especially the southeastern end of Wisconsin, still is. Or does a darn good impression of it. Beer-drinking, cheese-eating, cigarette-smoking, hard-working, salt-of-the-Earth kind of people. Dairy farms, lots of open space, contained big-box store sprawl.

We could not check into the lodge until 4 p.m., so we met in Kenosha at Frank's Diner, where the food was great, the prices were cheap, and the waitstaff (this guy was our waiter) had the right amount of attitude to keep The Boy, The Girl, and their friends in line. They took our party of 8 in stride, seating us in the back, and serving us hearty helpings of carbohydrates and cheese.

Cara, who had read reviews of the place, got a cheeseburger and tavern fries (potato chips with salt and some kind of white cheese - yum!). I had a grilled cheese on home-made bread with tavern fries, and then proceeded to eat half of The Girl's pancakes, which were fantastic. The only way they could have been improved upon was if they came with real maple syrup instead of pancake syrup (you know, the kind that's basically colored, flavored corn syrup). And then a waiter came by and asked us if we wanted cake, so I then ate a great slab of white cake with buttercream frosting covered in coconut. Seriously, yum. The Boy had chicken fingers, which he shared with The Baby. Cara's kids all ate corndogs. All of the kids (except The Baby) had ice cream; The Boy's was plain vanilla, just the way he likes it. The Girl's and Cara's kids had vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and cherries.

By the end of our meal, we were the only people in the place. A grandfatherly man came by on his way from the bathroom and asked us (jokingly!) if we could please keep it down. He flirted with all the kids, and even asked The Girl who she was. She said, "Nobody." His wife came by to check out the commotion and he said, "Hey, have you met Nobody yet?" I was favorably impressed by 'Sconnies.

Until, a couple of hours later, I was floating down the lazy river in a tube, with The Baby, who was nursing, on my lap. This chubby 8-year-old looks at me and says, "That's disgusting!" Nice. This bothers me in a few ways--that an 8-year-old would be taught to think that breastfeeding is disgusting, and that he would feel that's an acceptable thing to say to an adult, especially a stranger. Oh well, I ignored him and floated downstream.

The water park at Timber Ridge was, blessedly, smaller than the one at CoCo Key in Arlington Heights. It had a zero-depth entry kiddie pool with three slides, two swings, and a bunch of fountains; two hot tubs; a tube-slide (which could be done tandem for kids under 48" tall) and a tunnel slide; a larger pool with an obstacle cross and larger slides; and a lazy river that was, unlike the one at CoCo Key, truly lazy. I spent most of my time sitting on a deck chair watching The Boy, The Girl, and Cara's daughter, G., in the kiddie pool, or floating along the lazy river with The Baby on my lap. We spent a couple of hours on Thursday afternoon/evening and a couple of hours this morning at the water park.

One complaint about Timber Ridge (in addition to The Girl getting her hand stuck in the elevator door and having to yank it out because the buttons didn't work) is that there were no signs or times posted anywhere. There were no menus for the restaurants in the rooms, and we had to ask someone every time when closing/opening hours were. This was a problem at 7:15 this morning when we were all up and in our swimsuits with cover-ups in the hope that we could eat in The Hungry Moose snackbar in the water park, which was "Open for Breakfast." The reception desk was on the second floor; the water park was on the first, so we all trekked upstairs to learn that The Hungry Moose opened at 8 a.m. Fortunately, the Grand Cafe at the Grand Geneva Hotel, which was just up the way in the same resort complex, was open for breakfast at 6:30 a.m. We sprinted outside in the cold to the trolley bus, and took a 2-minute trolley ride to the Grand Geneva for breakfast.

There was only one other party (3 guys in golf shirts) there when we arrived, so service was prompt and courteous. Cara and I both had raspberry oatmeal with a maple sugar crust, and super strong coffee. The Boy ordered a vanilla french waffle, with berries, which he didn't like. I ate it and he ate my oatmeal. The Girl ordered a scrambled egg with hash browns, toast, and bacon, most of which she did eat. A few trips to the washroom later and we were finally done and back on the trolley to the Lodge.

We swam for about 2 hours, then headed up to our room to take a quick bath and change clothes before check-out time of 11 a.m. The bathtub in our room was enormous. All 5 kids were in the tub at once, with room to spare. Once were all dressed, we headed back downstairs to use up our tokens in the arcade. The Baby loved the arcade. It was small, not terribly crowded, and had lots of shiny lights to look at, and balls to hold and throw (Skee-Ball, Bozo Buckets, Basketball). I dispensed tokens and ate too many Jelly Flops, which Cara had gotten yesterday from her tour of the Jelly Belly factory.

After the arcade, things started to get hairy as lack of sleep and too much carbs/sugar caught up with us all. We packed up the cars and headed into downtown Lake Geneva to scrounge up some lunch. Our first several options were no-goes since Wisconsin still allows smokers to do so inside bar-restaurants. We ended up at the three-day-old Egg Harbor Cafe, where everyone got something they liked and I got a lap full of water from The Baby knocking my glass over on the table.

After lunch, we got on the road for the ride back. Mercifully, everyone (except me!) fell asleep on the drive back. All was well until we hit traffic on I-94, just after the merge with 41, and we had to take the long way home down Green Bay and McCormick Roads, through Winnetka (which looks like a slightly bigger version of Flossmoor, but otherwise the same), Wilmette, and Evanston. We stopped at some point to use the bathroom, have a drink and cookies at Starbucks. The Baby was in a fantastic mood, toddling around Starbucks with a giant cookie, his mama, and his big brother and sister.

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