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, 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 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.

The Latest, In List Form

Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Here is the latest:

1) We had a great Easter celebration, first with an Easter egg hunt at my sister's house, then with church in the morning and an Easter dinner here with Rich's family.
Hunting for eggs at the Fox's

Olivia hitting the jackpot

Cousins on the Kelly side

2) We helped cousin Olivia celebrate being two!*  (Or as she states her age: a big sister!)  We can't wait until October now!

3) We expanded the garden!  We have had intentions of doing this, but kept putting it off.  Probably because it was an annoying, more-difficult-than-it-should-have-been type of task.  Turns out, once you put rock down, pretty much just plan on leaving it there forever.  But now we can't wait to get it planted!

4)  Now onto baseball season and a continued hunt for a camper that we're happy with!

* If I may expand upon a story I alluded to in the previous post....

It was a busy day of getting things ready to host Easter and all the kids were pitching in to help.  I had asked Will to get out our gift to Olivia (a play cash register) and put the batteries I had bought into it.  This attracted the attention of the other 2 kids and they made it a joint effort. I was clear about being cautious of the new toy and leaving the play money and other accessories in their bags.  Not too soon after I heard, "uh-oh....Mom?".  I enter the room to see that they had placed Barbie coins from our play cash register into the coin slot on the new one.  And surprise!  They didn't fit and were wedged within the product.  That's right: there were three minds ranging in age from almost 7 to 12 and not one thought to mention that maybe shoving a foreign object into a new toy that wasn't theirs was a good idea.  Cue my total freak out session and summoning to Rich for help. 

A shout-out to Rich for being ultra handy in these situations, as there have been many Christmas mornings with non-functioning new toys that, after a trip down to the workbench, are in perfect working order.  Turns out this required total dismantling and a soldering gun to extract the pink coin, fix wires and proceed with the present-readying.  

Lesson learned: kids will always surprise you.  I mean, one minute they are giving you a well-prepared dissertation via Powerpoint regarding why they should have social media or watch a PG13 movie and the next minute they are shoving things where they shouldn't be.  Parenting is hard.

Spring Break!

Saturday, April 4, 2015
When it became clear that a sandy, warm spring break destination wasn't going to work, we knew we wanted SOME kind of getaway.  We decided to road trip down to St. Louis.  We have found we love to "explore" new cities and although we've been there, the kids were significantly littler and would appreciate it on a whole new level.

Plus, going to St. Louis meant getting to see my college bestie, Nicole, and her family of 3 boys all similar ages of ours.  It ended up being a great time!  We had a little of everything...seeing new attractions, visiting at their home, hotel swimming, city walking, and good dining out.  Everyone was happy.

If you ask the kids, they were most happy when with the Diehls.  It is amazing how they just fall into "knowing each other."  Truth - Paige and Luke have developed a texting relationship that keeps them more in touch such that it doesn't seem like so much time has passed since seeing each other.  They were two peas.  Now, it would be silly to daydream of one day the two of them getting married or something but if it happened, I would think maybe it would happen in Champaign - where they both would have gone to college and equidistant from their hometowns and Nicole and I would busily plan the details and go shopping and cake tasting together and maybe even wear matching dresses....

Grown-up Shot!

Goodbye hug
Walking around downtown near Busch Stadium  (We took this picture because that's a Cubs game on the jumbotron in the background!)
Budweiser Tour
City Museum.  Had my kids been littler, I would have been totally nervous and felt nothing but disdain for this place.  But since they're big...totally cool.  Rich and Cole are in the window of this plane.

At the Arch!

Having only 3 nights there leaves time for other things over break like To-Do lists, Easter, celebrating Olivia's 2nd birthday and other friend birthday parties.  Makes for a full, fun Spring Break!

Stay tuned for my next post with the working title: The Time My Kids Lost All Common Sense and Reason for the Love of All That is Good on this Earth.