Wait, what?

Sunday, July 26, 2015
Yeah.  It's been a solid month since I've updated our summer!  It's been a good mix of fun, more to-do's and some better weather.

First, we had our maiden camping voyage at a State Park.  (Note to self: state parks are full of pretty much trees and mosquitoes.  Seek out more adventurous, interesting destinations soon).  We did well as first-timers and had Jamie and Olivia join us for one of the two nights, which was a riot!

Then, there was the 4th of July.  This could almost be my favorite holiday!  Maybe it's because it's mid-summer.  Maybe it's because everyone celebrates it, but it's just a fun one!  We had a great time with our tradition of Fox Fourth camp out.  A bounce house, lawn games, parade and fireworks...this time with our own camper in attendance!
Centered around the bonfire!

The girlies in the bounce house

Ready for the candy-throwing parade!

Next, we had a visit from the Helds...my uncle Jim and his kids from Austin, Texas. The kids love to get together and are instant pals when they do! 
One of the many gatherings (photo missing David)

Spent some quality time shootin' guns, driving the go-cart and more lawn games.

Visiting prerequisite: eating at Lou Malnati's
And right now we're wrapping up a full weekend of celebrating Will turning 10!  He got to go to the races and have a slumber party with a few friends followed by a party with the whole fam and then a surprise gift from the Garbaciaks...tickets to the Cubs game today with Rich, Steve and Tim!  So far, 10 is treating him well!
Not gonna lie...They liked the crashes the best!

Family party in the kiddie pool!  (Perfect for Olivia to test her swimming skills)

This is the perfect visual depiction of how Will feels about all things birthday. 

Cubs! (We won't mention the score)

We've also had some time to play baseball and volleyball in the backyard on slower evenings.  The kids and I finally got a day in at the public pool.  Cole has started flag football (see also: mouth guards...why they're cool if they're for football).  And we finally have more of a vacation camping trip up to South Haven, Michigan planned!  Despite the fact that we went school supply shopping today, we are STILL soaking in summer!

Summer Update

Thursday, June 25, 2015
I should be reporting days at the pool, or maybe a spontaneous zoo trip, but these couple weeks have flown by and seem to be filled with so many "to-do's" that I'm not yet feeling the "laid back" summer days.  Of course, having rain or a threat of rain just about all the live long day hasn't helped these matters either.  

Also, here's a news-flash: kids don't get easier when they get older.  They get stronger opinions, make bigger messes, and are just plain trickier.  I'll use grocery shopping as an example.  I mean, I remember when I thought grocery shopping with babies and toddlers was difficult.  Little did I know how wonderful it was that they were strapped to me or jailed in the cart seat at least. The worst I could expect could easily be thwarted with an emergency Dum-Dum sucker from my purse.  Not anymore.  First, they're big.  They literally take up more space - as if maneuvering a squeaky shopping cart around end caps and displays wasn't hard enough.  Also the begging.  And the not realizing that person approaching with a cart PROBABLY WILL NEED ROOM TO GET BY.  And the fighting amongst each other.  Or the getting in cahoots with each other against me to lobby for yet another junky food.  And the still begging while I'm talking to the checkout person.  And the complaints of cold temperatures in the freezer aisles (because everyone LOVES liquid ice cream).  So like I said...still not easy.

Don't get me wrong, even though I've done more deep sighs and raising of my voice (and maybe not unlocking the rest of the car doors once inside for a 10 second rest in silence - which, by the way, they thought was hilarious) than I'm proud of, we have had some super fun times as well.  Here is a list!

1) We built our new deck landing! Next comes some railing, a longer, full step, and improvements on the brick pavers.

2) Rich's Mom bought a house nearby!  We are all very excited for this.  The place is beautiful and has access to a pool!

3) We opened our cool-off pool! Despite the awful weather we've had, they've still managed to spend some time in it.

4) We got our camper!  It's SO fun!  We've done a driveway camp out and this weekend will do a first trip up to Chain 'O Lakes, where Jamie and Olivia will spend one night with us!

5) PRAIRIEFEST!  We so look forward to this.  However, our late night got...stormed out.  We still managed to get some fun in.
Unlimited ride time!  Renee, Will, Jesse, Riley

6) We did our annual trip to the races in honor of Rich's dad.  It was another beautiful evening!

7) We celebrated Father's Day in style: a cookout and BB gun shooting.

8) The kids got to fish at the neighbors' and Will finally got a chance to try out his very own pole.  They caught nothing and Milo tried to take off with the beef jerky bait, but fun!

9) Cole had his first baseball game!  He had a couple hits and a great play at 1st for an out.  He had another game tonight, but...you guessed it....rained out.

So here's to the end of June and more summer-like weather and slow days that allow us time to breathe it in...and maybe some solo grocery shopping.

One Week In

Monday, June 8, 2015
I'm happy to report that summer is underway and things are going well.  Sure, there has been the occasional wrestling match turn real fight, baseball cleats tracking monumental amounts of mud in the house, grocery store trips that involve carts with 50+ pound growths hanging off and LOTS more noise, but it has been great so far!

In the first few days that I'll refer to as the "honeymoon phase," the boys were two peas in a pod!  They were playing games they hadn't played in ages, doing art together and swinging forever while jamming to tunes.  Reality hit soon after this honeymoon phase, but we have leveled off well.
Started with our traditional (almost) weekly library / village grind trip.  Love these lower key days!

Everyone has been enjoying evening ball games
Cole has even taken to book keeping!

Will pitching a win to his cousin the catcher Riley!  This picture will one day be a classic!

A trip on this beautiful day to Blackberry Farms to meet up with Jamie and Olivia was a great start to summer week 2!

The boys - lovin' on their cuz!

The whole gang getting a cool treat: Cole, Paige, Renee, Lauren, Riley, Olivia, Will

A *little* worried on the merry-go-round, but that face.  mmmm...
Paddle boating

This week brings the beginning of Cole's ball season, Will's high school baseball camp, the beginning of Paige's tutoring to enter honors math next year, Cole's swimming lessons, picking up our new camper, and putting a new deck landing off our back door.  We won't be bored.

It's Coming!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Everyone.  There is only 1 more school night after this.  I'm so excited for summer!  But the mere mention of that word brings on pangs of anxiety...

  • knowing my house will not truly feel clean again until fall
  • alone time - it will cease to exist
  • there will be bickering
  • there will be more meal-making

But there will also be new experiences, unscheduled days and nights, family trip(s), warm weather, built-in helpers, special events and more!  And I know that when the school year approaches I'm usually dreading the plunge into routine and tedium, so surely I enjoy summer once we establish its norm.

Here are a few wrap-up things from the year: Paige had her final band concert.  The boys had field day!  They have emptied out their desks / locker.  There are only picnics and parties left.
Flag ceremony to open Field Day

Will's Den

Will (in blue) dragging a tire in the relay

Cole running while playing a game with his class

A recent punishment for Paige is sure to show that summer will not be as simple as splash parks and sidewalk chalk like it once was.  Parenting is just a bit hairier now.  But with that comes more possibilities and interest.  So here's to our "big kid" summer.  Bring it on!

Also, happy 14 years to us, who got to enjoy a wonderful dinner out this past weekend!  After all, without this there wouldn't be those previously mentioned high-maintenance kids!

Keeping Up

Monday, May 11, 2015
That's right!  I have a blog!  I didn't forget.  So, let's get up to speed.

1) Paige had a wonderful first saxophone solo performance!  I don't have any still photos of this, but we were very proud of her memorization of her piece and mistake-free performance.

2) We have enjoyed watching Will's Diamondback baseball team go 3-1 so far for the season, with Rich coaching.  Spring weather is tricky to keep that schedule on track, however.

3)  Had the boys' annual rain gutter regatta event for Scouts.  We also won the world's coolest cake (decorated like a cub scout shirt) in the silent auction.

4) Cashed in a Christmas present from my mom to many of us for a wine and paint event.  So fun!
Mine's the best.
5) I chaperoned the 4th grade field trip to the outdoor education center. It was a beautiful day for it and I learned a thing or two...like how to kill a giant spider with a water bottle in the back of the bus with screaming kids.

6) Had a nice, relaxing mother's day with time spent with Rich's mom and a visit to my Grandmother.
Together, we are moms of 11 kids.

7) Tonight, Cole got to attend a Kane County Cougars game with his scout den.  They had a private deck and Rich went with him.  I guess it was pretty awesome and we "totally have to do that."
The "selthie" I requested.


8)  Lastly, this past week my cousin, Julie succumbed to cancer that she had been fighting hard for over 2 years.  She surpassed her prognosis more than once and I no doubt believe that her positive attitude and drive to live helped her do that and check many things off her list.  She was special in that she always kept communication going within the family.  She was great at scheduling visits and remembering occasions with cards and phone calls.  

In talking about her loss with Paige, she said that she didn't know her all too well (since she lived far away), but one memory she has of Julie is that "one time at Great Grandma's, all the adults were sitting on the couches and Julie was on the floor playing cars with Cole.  And I remember thinking, 'she's cool'."  

I have memories of sleepovers with her and her brother, her teaching us cheers, marveling at a home video of her Junior Miss pageant, and our priceless visit with her last March.  While I wish we would have captured a picture of my sisters, myself and her on that visit, I know I'd rather remember her like the picture below...bright face, beautiful smile.

Seven Years for Cole

Monday, April 20, 2015
For some reason, age 5 and 6 seem similar, but 7 just seems old-kid aged.  Cole had a great weekend of celebrating this fact with great weather and 2 parties!  Friday night was a typical summer grill meal with family, where he was showered with wonderful presents that he was super excited for!  This included a bean-bag chair, Aaron Rodgers jersey (yes, Green Bay), another energy necklace (to add to his crazy accessory collection), Nerf gun, games and more!  His dessert of choice was a cookie cake!
What happiness looks like

So many reasons to like this pic: his sweet smile in his new GB jersey,  his dad's traumatized photo bomb, and Olivia just walking through the yard in her flouncy skirt in the background.

Green grass and sun!

On Sunday, we planned an afternoon kid-party for Cole.  I was a cheerleader for heading somewhere to celebrate this year (laser tag? mini golf? anything?), but Cole LOVES to have his friends over to play.  We invited 5 of his besties and they all were able to make it to the sports-themed party!  Despite the pending rain, we got our sports-challenge scavenger hunt in just before raindrops started to fall.  They boys had a blast.  Here are some tips if planning a similar shindig:
  1. Six 1st graders is plenty.
  2. Chocolate cupcake can easily get ground into carpet.  Remove all carpet or make white cake.
  3. Don't use frosting.  They may use the frosting for face paint.  You know, to be funny.
  4. A pinata in the garage is great! But warning: candy falling to a cement surface may cause mini sugar explosions all over.  Put a blanket down or just randomly throw candy at them like wild animals.
  5. Have a basement.  Put them in it.
  6. Have a plan, but be ready to abandon it if they're having fun doing what 1st grade boys to best...wrestle and be loud.
I love the interest in the present-opening

The crew
So, Cole, happy birthday to you.  You are sweet, snuggly, and kind.  You are becoming stronger-willed, motivated and tough.  Whether it be a secret plan with Dad to get donuts in the morning, or those smiling cheeks I can see from a block away as you coming running off the bus, you truly light up our days.