Will's Celebration of 9 Years!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Our tradition / celebration / detail-oriented Will turned 9 this past weekend!  It is so fun to plan a party for him.  While he doesn't desire expensive, elaborate celebrations, he does have his specific ingredients that make up a "good party."  There should be sleeping bags, soda pop of varieties he's normally not allowed, salty snacks, sickening sweet ice cream, favorite cake, balloons, other decorations - namely, crepe paper.

He received thoughtful gifts that he SO loved!  He has done magic tricks, listened to music through his new speaker, completely re-done his room in Chicago sports decor, built a robot, rode a bigger bike, and more!  What's even better is that what he shows in excitement, he equals in gratitude.  So thanks to everyone who helped him celebrate!

Chocolate eclair cake took the place of the normal angel food.  I've heard it will be next year's choice as well!

Proof he's getting older: this excitement is for clothes!

Utter joy and silliness


Late-nighting it!

Keeping up with Summer

Sunday, July 20, 2014
Quite obviously, this blog has been a drop zone for all of our "done thats" this summer.  Mainly because I don't really have time for deep thoughts or witty takes on life.  This one doesn't differ.  Try to keep up!  We have:

  • Met friends at the Morton Arboretum for a day of nature and picnicking.
    All boys.  One girl.

  • Biked to and ate from the BBQ wagon followed by river wading and hiking.
  • Continued to watch and enjoy Cole's baseball games (even Milo)
    #12 (a.k.a. smallest kid on the team) with his arm around coach dad

    He's cheering for #12
  • Biked a lot - stopped at the splash park.

  • Went to Medieval Times! (Something we have been talking about and we made it fun by using our coin jar money and garage sale money to pay our way).  Remember the lemonade stand the kids made money on during the garage sale?  Yeah, we didn't use that money.
    Entrepreneurs

    Eating without silverware.  My kids did it well!


  • Prepared for Will's birthday!  Here he is next to his oak tree.  This was a seedling he brought home from preschool in a plastic bag on Earth Day.  Now look at it...and him!
  • Mentally prepared for an early wake-up call from here on out with band camp starting at 8am tomorrow.  So long, slow summer mornings!

Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
I haven't documented our holiday weekend yet because I am still recovering.  Actually, I've been busy and needed to get pictures off my camera - but the latter could be true!  We gathered on 4 separate days, which was important because there were people from 4 different states all in the same place!  And it wasn't just eating and drinking (okay, there was some of that).  We challenged ourselves with volleyball, a bags (or corn hole) tournament, a forest preserve hike complete with scavenger hunt, and other physical games.  We milked the weekend for all it was worth!  Here are some pictures to prove it!

Jamie and Olivia


Bags Tourney

At the forest preserve, where the boys finished the scavenger  hunt first and were back at this spot before anyone else!

Boys and Oakley.  He was well-loved all weekend!

Justin scavenging.

One of the physical games! CLUMP!

Sporting the patriotic tattoos.  Feelin' cool.

Hiking

Rockin' Summer

Sunday, June 22, 2014
We are (finally) rolling on our summer fun to-do list and this week and weekend with little "must-do's" helped!

  • Paige and Rich went on their planned movie date to see "Divergent."  She has read the entire series and both enjoyed it!  Plus, the boys and I got to meet them out for dinner afterwards at a neat new restaurant.
  • We finally made and kept dinner plans with friends we have been trying to go out with!
  • We made it to Starved Rock! (Well, actually next door to Matthiessen State Park).  The mud made the trek especially challenging and fun!

  • The kids and I made it out to "Stephanie's Garden" - a children's garden in a forest preserve created in memory of a family friend of ours.
    Before poor Milo got stung by a bee.

    In an Indian hut.  Paige had been here for school and educated us on it.
  • We are heavy into new books with our weekly library visits.
And here are some things I have learned this week:
  • My boys need stricter dressing / grooming guidelines.  Outfits are worn that don't match; nasty hats are worn nice places; some things are ill-fitting, and this happens when sweaty boy meets s'mores:
    Just.  Wow.
  • Large spiders.  There are large spiders indigenous to the Starved Rock area.
  • We need to get some stamina built up in our 6-year old's legs!  Granted, I was surprised to find he is still weighing in at 43 lbs and is the smallest on his ball team, but still.  
  • If ever I thought my house was all clean at once, I was terribly mistaken.  There's surely a mess somewhere.
  • Our kids, though we know they are growing up everyday, will just strike me as grown up all at once and I will suddenly wonder where the time went.

A Late Night Weekend

Monday, June 16, 2014
There are some really great things about kids getting older.  One of them is that more later nights are possible and we definitely milked that this weekend!  Firstly, we took advantage of wristband night for rides during Prairie Fest Thursday night (because in addition to being able to stay up late, they also cost more and wristbands for rides are cheaper than tickets).  Also, note to self: even looking at spinning rides for a long duration can cause motion sickness to aging parents.  Late night.


Cole = first timer on this ride.  Big Fan.

Friday night was the latest night.  It was a wonderful tribute to my father-in-law in the form of a trip to the car races (one of his favorite pastimes and something he talked about often).  He would love to know that his enthusiasm for this brought 18 of us together on a beautiful Friday night for some great concession food and racing excitement!  Oh how I wish he could have been there to see the boys yell for the spin-outs and Paige cheer for the female drivers.  It was a great late night.
Beautiful night for the races

Almost the whole crew

Some fans

The junk food boys

The whole crew

We got to have Rich's mom stay with us for a couple nights which meant she joined us on our last late night back to Prairie Fest for another ride each and some (not the greatest) live music.  By this time, we were getting beat!

The last day brought the parade and some father's day festivities at my parents' house.  Great weekend!



Note to self: don't plan anything early the Monday after Prairie Fest.  Getting out of the house around 9am today proved difficult, but we did it for the sake of meeting with my group of friends one last time!  (One is moving out of state and one just moved about 40 minutes away).  While we will still be connected, our monthly "girl time" will come to an end, sadly.  One last hurrah was needed!
When we first started meeting, Will (and the other oldest boys pictured) was in his first year!

Great friends.

Summer Report

Sunday, June 8, 2014
A week plus into summer break and here's how we're doing:


  • Had a quick trip up to MI for a graduation party and got to visit with some fun people!
  • Have successfully ran errands with kids in tow.  (You'd think this would get easier as I don't have to work around nap times and dirty diapers, but they talk now.  All three of them...usually at the same time and it's a little trying when I'm attempting to compare prices and ingredients!)


  • Got the mini pool up...then realized it was faulty (after 2 seasons, we thought this was acceptable), so we got another and have yet to get it filled - but soon!
  • Spend a lot of time attending baseball games, and more to come as Cole's season begins tomorrow!
  • Reaching goal for at least 1 joyful thing a day! Today's was a family walk along the river. (Tomorrow's is ice cream after the boys' baseball.  Because this takes pre-planning with Cole's allergies, we rarely do this and they will be excited!  Shhh!)

  • Took some time off Cole's dentist appointment next month because his bridge with this fake teeth he has had since 4 just up and fell out!  He didn't miss a beat and is quite comfy with the gap.  Since it looks more age appropriate now, we're happy too!


That's summer so far!  Hoping to keep the "good" coming!

Disney 2014

Thursday, May 29, 2014
This trip.  It was so important to finally have it occur and proved to be exactly what we wanted.  With a work conference for Rich being the the impetus for the trip, we stayed where it was hosted, the Grand Floridian.  We also planned light schedules, knowing that he would be in seminars for a few hours each day. This plan worked out well!  Here we go...day by day.

Day 1
Awesome flight there - even landed 10 minutes early.  Hopped the Magical Express which whisked us away to our classical themed hotel.  Will said he felt he was on the Titanic - live orchestra music and ornate decor! We had our first dinner reservation there and took a dip in the pool that our room overlooked.



Day 2
After the kids and I had a little more pool time while Rich learned a thing or two, we had a quick lunch and headed to Epcot!  We HAD to ride the Chevy Test Track again, but then did Mission: Space and Spaceship Earth.  Both were great!  The afternoon heat made us melt (down).  It became clear we needed to find cool places during this time.  We muscled through with the help of cool drinks and had a great Mexican dinner and toured the different countries.  The fireworks show was incredible again and we made our way home...very tired and sticky.
Never got one of these last time!

I could've found a park bench and just sat here all night...plus it was cooler now.

Paige's souvenir...from China
 
DAY 3
Wanting less of a schedule this day, we planned to travel to Downtown Disney in the afternoon.  Lots of neat shops and things to see in this area, but not the best area to beat the heat.  During the meltdown period, we hit a movie (Million Dollar Arm...loved it!) before our reservation at Planet Hollywood.  That restaurant was like going to a night club.  We had a blast (but Paige was admittedly overwhelmed by all the action)!  It was a great time and our walk back to our bus was FILLED with nonstop live music...from Shakira-like performers to Irish dancers.  So fun!
Hunger Games wardrobe!  A definite cool moment for Paige!

LEGO store!

"Having a crazy time at Planet Hollywood" selfie during the very annoying "selfie" song
DAY 4
This day was reserved for the park we hadn't hit yet...Animal Kingdom.  We had Fast Passed the Safari which proved to be quite a highlight (Paige and Cole's favorite).  Then, we rode Dinosaur and Expedition Everest (a true roller coaster that we deemed too intense for Cole).  Will's favorite was definitely this coaster so he was delighted when we won the "pick a number" game to get to ride a second time with Rich.  I screamed hard on this...like have a sore throat later hard.  To beat the heat here, we caught a live musical of Nemo in a dark, air-conditioned theater.  It was incredible (the costuming/puppeteering).  The whole family gave it a thumbs down except me because they don't have appreciation for fine arts and talent (but I didn't hear anyone complaining of being out of the afternoon heat for an hour).  This was followed by our dinner at Yak and Yeti.  This Asian Cuisine restaurant was our favorite as we got a great 2-story table in a windowed corner - great view and great food!  It started to rain a bit during dinner which emptied the park pretty well.  Therefore, we caught a no-wait 4D Bugs Life movie that was intense! (This might have added to the sore throat.  Think spiders...lots of big ones coming down at you.)  We happily rode home and slept GREAT!
Just amazing scenes on this safari

In front of the "Tree of Life" - the focal point of the park.  This is an enormous tree that is, ironically, fake, but the entire trunk is a jumble of all different animals.  Very neat.

In front of Expedition Everest.  The nerves are high at this point!
Day 5
Well, I don't even want to talk about this day!  We managed to squeeze in some pool time at a different one we hadn't been to with a slide.  We had an hour+ delay due to a storm (whatever nervousness Will doesn't have for coasters, he DOES for flying in bad weather - trust me).  And the workers were in such a rush to take cover that our luggage just sat down there on the tarmac...getting soaked.  Then the kids bonded so well they decided they wanted to sit all three together on the plane.  But, as we know, all good things come to an end and so 1 spilled drink and a fight over how much to keep the window shade open and well, vacation was over.
Swim lessons finally paying off as Cole had a blast swimming!


Before the drama.  Cole is holding a piece of gum...ready to begin chewing at take-off!

So glad we made this trip a priority and have these wonderful memories!