Paige's Birthday Post

Sunday, December 14, 2014
I'm going to take a moment now to record a few words about the fact that Paige is turning an even dozen in a little over a week.  This is in keeping with the way her birthday has always been...Back in 2002, I was done with Christmas shopping much earlier than normal, scheduling gatherings around this expected day, and  taking time away from what everyone else was focused on to anticipate and look forward to this new little person that was to come.  I loved having a baby at this time of year, despite nay-sayers' input on my due date.  There is nothing more effective for reminding one of the miracle of the birth of Jesus than experiencing the miracle of birth so close to the anniversary of that date.  I am also so happy that she loves having her birthday at this time...the celebratory mood everyone is already in, the time off of school for more party potential, and double presents!

We had a small family celebration this weekend at our house and Paige's response was that she couldn't imagine a better birthday and doesn't know how she'll top this one next year.  This comes after she was feverishly helping me the night before (after a school event and having the kitchen tore up for 2+ days) to prepare because she literally felt bad (read: thankful) for the effort I was putting in.  And this is where the major change in the past year has become apparent.  I love her gift of gratitude and, unlike many of us, she remembers to verbalize it.  Whether it is an article of clothing washed in time to be worn or a dinner she particularly liked (which is most), she is always the first to say thank-you.

She is a great communicator.  She is a pleaser.  She is thoughtful.  She is happy.  She is excitable.  She is beautiful.  She is open-minded and caring.  She has become so much more than I ever could have imagined in that time of anticipation in 2002.  Happy birthday, Paige Michelle!
Back in the day...

Aloe Vera plant - because, like, Pinterest has so many uses for it!

Double piercing!  

Twelve years! (Wish someone would have warned me it would look more like 16!)

Before December Hits...

Sunday, November 30, 2014
I believe this will only be my second blog post in the month of November.  I'd like to think it's because we're too busy living to stop to record the details of it.  (Kind of like people will say to get out from behind your camera and actually experience your vacation).  But I get that conundrum.  Sometimes our minds aren't the best recorders and having some other forms of memories are important.  With that logic in mind, some posts have to better than none.

This is my thanksgiving post.  Not just about the day itself, but about what I'm thankful for in general:

  • Happy kids that are doing well in school, yet love the breaks from the grind.
  • Pets.  I love them.  Our dog (sitting next to me right now) knows when the holidays hit.  I'm convinced.
  • My husband and his dedication to his job and the family / work balance.
  • Days that are above freezing degrees.
  • My whole family and how the loss of some only magnifies the importance of others.
  • Our pending kitchen upgrades!
  • My friends and the fun we can have just sitting around talking.
  • The ability to take care of ourselves and help others.
  • Cozy movie nights.  Or days.  Or mornings. 
  • Health - of all types.
Me and Grandma

Gary Cumpata and Jack Cumpata

These three.  I took three pictures.  This was the best, so...


Eggers and Reisses (in the infamous garage cafe)

Fox and Garbaciak clans

Extended Weekend!

Sunday, November 9, 2014
Whoever invented three-day weekends was brilliant!  We like to use those random days off (that not the rest of the world has off) to do attractions, such that crowds are less than normal.  Therefore, Rich took the day off and we headed to the Museum of Science and Industry.  (Only the Field Museum left on our list because we've done planetarium and aquarium recently...and the art museum isn't really on the list).

Thinking I would find things familiar when we arrived, I was looking forward to school field trip flashbacks.  But there were none.  I had never been to this museum!!  We were there almost the entire operating hours of the museum and still didn't see everything!  But, we did get to tour the U505 submarine and go down on a mock coal mine.  We all loved the huge model train set, and I always love to see mock streets from over 100 years ago (Walgreens, dentist's office, etc.).
Part of the model train set.  I think we could have left Will here all day and he wouldn't have even noticed.

In the car and boat area.

Paige - fixing meals on board a submarine

Geeking out on model trains!

Sunday marked the Park District's Gobbler Hobbler 10K/1 mile run.  The kids and Rich ran the mile and did awesome! I did the 10K and I'm pretty sure had my best time (and so you can tell how serious I am about it - but the challenge is fun!).  As I type this, we're planning an afternoon matinee to see Big Hero 6.  Sitting for close to 2 hours sounds perfect right about now!
Braved cold temps and crossed the finish line! (Kellys, Eggers and friend Noah)
And now a quote from Will:
"I remember weird details of things, like the Cheetos I ate at Cole's birth."

This Is Halloween

Sunday, November 2, 2014
Halloween on a Friday!  Everyone was looking forward to it!  Except that we awoke to this:
Snow. On Halloween.  It wasn't a first, but we were enjoying 70 degrees less than a week prior!  Still, we all headed out for our day as planned.  I worked a little at the school, and then in Cole's classroom for the party.  Then it was time to head home, get bundled and head to the Eggers' neighborhood first.  In all of the worrying about proper layers for the weather and does everyone have everything, I completely forgot to take a picture of all 3 kids dressed up.  Halloween fail.  So here is what they were in 2014:
This is Cole as the Skylander Crusher.  He looked awesome!

Will went as the Grim Reaper.  This is him minus the sickle because they don't allow (fake) weapons in school.   Then minus it again at night because of it's potential to hinder him on his candy-collecting mission.  We are not buying hand-held props for costumes again.

Paige went as this.  We called it a renaissance girl.  It was super cute on her.
So, they scavenged through the Eggers' neighborhood and then through ours.  Rich's mom was visiting and was with them whole high winds and low temperatures.  We only lost 2 different costume parts!  One was recovered, one is gone forever.  The kids would say I got the picture that matters most:  the loot.

Weekend Moments

Monday, October 27, 2014
I am so thankful for this weekend.  There were some social plans of my kids, an overnight conference for Rich, a Cub Scout event for Cole, pumpkin carving - yet it was also a breath of fresh, beautiful air that felt so great leading into cooler fall temperatures and holiday-related to-do's.  I'll let the pictures share the moments...
Last-minutes trail hike at a preserve we hadn't been to!

Loved this view

Cole was on walking-stick mission.  Everyone had one customized.  His had a special hook for Milo's water.

This view = my heaven

Our pumpkins!

Cole's (a guy with plastic fangs and twig sticking out of his mouth), Paige's (Tinkerbelle which she did entirely alone), and Will's (a scary guy eating a smaller pumpkin)

1st Grade boys touring a radio station.  It experience!  But really, how cute are they!?

Liv catching a ride on LEAF DAY!

Hard workers (a.k.a. co-conspirators)

First time on the mini bike.  Um, to say he loved it is a gross understatement.  Now, if only we can stress the importance of looking forward, instead of at his audience!

Go-cart leaf run!!!!!! (Oh's in there)

The damage

Love it!

Some Funnies

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
I've gotten away from daily giggle reports.  It's not that there isn't comical fun around here; it's just that instead of a whole funny story about a potty training incident or nap time protester, the laughter is more about one-liners and mature jokes (well, not THAT kind of mature).  Anyway, the kids are funny and I find I especially revel in their ability to feed off of each other and make each other laugh.  Unless it leads to uncontrollable giggles at the dinnertime in which composure is never regained.  That's annoying...and kind of funny.

But last night we were laughing at a word Cole realized he had wrong "all this time."  (I can't remember it right now).  He got a little bent out of shape that Will was getting such a kick out of it.  That's when I reminded EVERYbody that they all have their stories of mistaken words.  Like when Will was younger and used to think the library was "live berry."  Cole loved this bit of information and asked Will if he had to ask the "live berrian" if they had the book he wanted.

We are on a charades kick in house lately.  It's hilarious.  Will can't start a word without saying "okay, here we go..."  He also cracked us all up when Paige was acting out what looked like a large clock tower and Will blurted out, "Big Bill!"  Seriously.  I don't even know if we ever found out what the real answer was.

Lastly, I have to say that though Cole's reading /writing skills are right along average for first grade, I am loving his (finally) sudden interest in and confidence in writing.  He definitely has a knack for math.  So, understandably, the book he is currently writing in his journal at bedtime is called "Math."  So far it has thirteen chapters.  He has covered how numbers are cool and his favorite number is 100,000.  He has covered the plus and minus sign.  I hadn't read chapter 10, so he showed me it tonight.
Chapter 10: Math
Math is good for you because it gets your brain going.  It can help you get to be a bank helper.

A Not So Gentle Reminder

Tuesday, October 14, 2014
A buzz word for me lately has been "over scheduling."  Due to the season and current interests of our kids right now, our extra-curricular calendar isn't bursting at the seams, contrary to many I speak with.  While I have mixed feelings about this and a constant pull towards the societal norm of having every living moment scheduled for our kids, I have to say that I am loving how this plays out.

The kids are playing.  They are excited to get done with their homework so they can decide what to do next.  The TV has not been on.  Screens are ultra limited.  Yesterday they had a "work out club" in the basement with the neighbor kid.  Tonight we were free enough to go as a whole family to a fundraising event for Will's class at a fun place.  It is a beautiful, wonderful breath of fresh air.

I'm not saying that I won't be encouraging my kids to try new things, sign up for this or join that.  I'm just saying that it has been a glaring reminder of the kids that they are and that they want to be for a while.

Another reminder I have received lately is how wonderfully blessed we are with children who, overall, do not struggle.  Today I substituted as a one-on-one aid to a child with autism.  There was screaming, kicking, running, and so much angst that I can't imagine anything but sleep for the child after school (and myself).  My heart ached for this boy as I saw how much he struggled and then pictured my usual image of my boys bounding off the school bus with smiles on their faces not able to wait to tell me stories of their days.  I feel like I take time to realize the good that surrounds me.  But situations like this push this reminder to the forefront for sure.  Thankful.

Family Portraits

Sunday, September 28, 2014
My name is Karen.  I've been a parent for almost 12 years and I had my first professional family photo taken today.  Thank you for not judging me.

The truth is that I don't like getting my own picture taken, much less preparing 3 kids and a husband to simultaneously look photo-ready.  But, it was finally time.

Last weekend we had been invited to a very unique event at the Shedd Aquarium downtown with dinner among the sea life.  You'll see from this photo we had taken why I dread family photos.  There's the eyes blinking at different times, hands where they shouldn't be, athletic socks worn with brown shoes without my knowing, etc.  For some reason it's just stressful.  But here's what we got out of that:

Not exactly frame-able, but because it marked the event, it's a keeper.  Little fun fact: this was actually taken in front of a green screen, though we did eat dinner by this reef. 
I'm not exactly into staged "situations" when it comes to family pictures.  I'm pretty traditional, but wanted a natural backdrop.  So we met at a park by the river and the photographer recommended (because of lighting and the fact that the kids were old enough to handle it) going down by the creek for some great nature shots.  We go down there all the time so this was great!  Only on the way down (picture rocks, with a creek winding by) Cole wipes out and cuts his hand pretty good.  Because of course that's what happens when you're looking for 20-30 minutes of great smiles and personality captured on film.  He was trying hard not to cry, but there was blood.  Luckily, I had a band aid in my purse and I slapped it on and said, "All better!"  Only it stung and he was kind of ticked off about the whole thing.

This is when I started sweating, which is always pretty in pictures.  It's also when Rich and I got so desperate for his cooperation for this professional who charges by the half hour that we both (unbeknownst to each other) made somewhat impractical promises to the kid.  I, with my wide eyes and excited tone, offered a dish of his ice cream BEFORE dinner.  Rich offered a new toy.  (Let's admit.  Mine's a little more reasonable).

We managed to reel him in enough for what I think will be some great shots...on railroad tracks, down by the rocks, and wading in the river.  Hopefully we're all smiling at the same time in a couple.  And that you can't see the band aid.


Thursday, September 25, 2014
Because he's been cuting (that's a word) me out lately, I thought I'd like to make special mention of Cole.  He is hysterical and though quiet and reserved in school, has high confidence and enjoyment for school.  Also, he makes up for the quiet once he gets home.  Here are some other reasons he gets special mention:

  • He is making great strides in his reading fluency lately.
  • The other night he informed me that he likes to just "chill" in his towel for a while after getting out of a bath or shower.
  • He also informed that he thinks maybe he could go on America's Got Talent for his ability to stand on one leg for a very long time (picture scrawny, spindly leg struggling to balance his naked-except-for-tighty-whitey body).
  • I gave the kids those very small school pictures of themselves in case they wanted to pass them out to any friends.  Today Cole told me, "oh yeah, I sold some of mine to my friends."  (He quickly realized that he used the wrong verb there, but for a minute - it was pretty funny!)
  • He wakes up joyful and ready everyday.  There hasn't been an exception yet this school year.  (I will brace myself for what will surely be Murphy's law tomorrow).
  • Today he was determined to teach me a P.E. lesson.  He got the supplies ready outside while I finished up my duties and when I got out, he taught me from beginning to end how to correctly throw a frisbee (complete with reaching around my body to shadow the proper hold and telling me I did well when really I did not).
Celebrating this totally enjoyable phase!

Little Known Facts

Wednesday, September 17, 2014
There are some things I have made a mental note of lately:
  • If I don't have kids at home with me all day, the number of pictures on my phone will remain constant for days on end.
  • My kids will surprise me when you don't see it coming (which, I know, is the definition of surprise).  But really, our piano has been sitting in our living room Cole's whole life.  And just last week he decided he's totally into it.  Lessons are in his future.
  • My kids have started early wish lists for Christmas.  On 2 lists, there is a total of 3 items that live and breathe.
  • My daughter has wit - as in while describing a certain group of girls at school (think movie Mean Girls) who wear "their weight in make-up."  That's funny stuff.  
  • She also has self-confidence and and a big heart - as in making a point to spend some of her lunch time with a special needs child who sits near her table (despite "table hopping" being prohibited, though she thinks the lunch aid sees and chooses to look the other way).
  • A certain third child of mine thinks that you can rub a spill into the kitchen table, much like rubbing lotion into skin.  Unfortunately, the white yogurt haze is, in fact, still there.
  • If I clean fingerprints off of my glass doors in the morning, it's a safe bet that they will remain that way until 3 p.m.  This is the most worthwhile this task has ever been.
  • Seeing my 9 year-old's face when he realized he was confusing his cursive "F's" with his cursive "T's" and had been writing about the novel "Tuck Everlasting" and how detrimental that mistake could be was priceless.