Gratitude Challenge

Monday, September 8, 2014
On social media, I've seen where it has become common to nominate people to post what they are gracious for.  It's no longer reserved only for that day in late November!  Now, I have not been nominated, but will participate out of sheer desire to get all that I am thankful for (and have been thinking about lately) down.
Here goes...

  • I'm thankful for the ease at which my kids awaken for school.  There are no whines or moans or cold water splashed on faces.  It's a school day.  They get up.  They do it.
  • I'm thankful  for my new mini position at the elementary school of substituting for the TA's.  This gives me great exposure to so many different kids and actually earns a paycheck.  (Not to take away from my time spent volunteering both during the school day and with Home and School, which I deeply love as well).
  • I'm thankful for our lighter evening load this quarter.  It has lead to evenings in the backyard as a family, game nights, etc., after homework on a school night!
  • I'm thankful for my husband, who is just great and loves me despite my flaw(s).  (Okay, fine, it's plural).
  • I'm thankful for HEALTH!  Seriously.
  • I'm thankful for my dog.  He is my only company when I'm home during the day, though he chooses to sleep most of it (probably making time go by quicker until the kids are home, but still).
  • I'm thankful for our so much more!
But I'll tell you one thing.  There are some things I'm NOT thankful for...
  • These horrid weather prediction maps of our upcoming winter.
  • This news of a respiratory illness starting to sweep the nation.
  • International unrest.
  • Burpees
There.  Challenge complete!

Love / Hate

Monday, September 1, 2014
Reasons I Loved This Weekend

  • The boys had their first cub scout camp out.
  • The camp out was at a cool historical park I had never even been to!
  • Had an overnight visit from mother-in-law (and dog) = nice dinner out and relaxing Saturday morning
Reasons I Hated This Weekend
  • Cole had an allergic reaction at the cub scout camp out making his night short and sending him in a whirlwind of medications and discomfort until rest finally came over 5 hours later.
  • Really don't know with certainty the origin of the reaction.
  • Cole missed his guy-time overnight.
  • Paige and I missed our girl night (planned for after we left the camp out)
  • Rich painfully had to wait for my updates while staying back for Will's sake.
But Reasons I Loved This Weekend
  • The wonderful sleepless night I had next to Cole, just watching his chest heave with normal, rhythmic breaths.
  • Seeing Paige shift into selfless helpful mode when it mattered.
  • Seeing the concern and support of the whole Scout family.
  • The giddy 6-year old that woke up next to me and then got to have a camp out re-do with Dad that night.
  • Productivity: oil changed, lawn mowed, master closet overhaul
  • Family time.  Be it with just the 5 of us or extended - it's just what matters.

Cantigny Park

Shhh...the boy behind Cole is totally disappointed Paige isn't spending the night. :)

Beautiful gardens

Pack 633 Camp

Camp re-do

Camping dog.  Never left.

First Week Report Card

Sunday, August 24, 2014
We did it!  The first week of school is under our belt (and for the record, I feel that school should always start with a slightly shorter than full week - to warm up to the whole idea of school).  Overall, the start was probably not as smooth as some in the past, but we finished strong.  Here is a kid-by-kid report:

PAIGE: Came home slightly down-trodden and frustrated Monday.  Things weren't as warm and fuzzy as elementary school and passing periods / different teachers / locker combos had her slightly stressed.  With each day, however, she seemed more and more confident and I feel she is well on her way to enjoying junior high.

WILL:  It's hard to read Will's response to school because it is always so clouded with an overall mourning the loss of summer.  He, too, was a little overwhelmed with a switch they made in his AT class (now daily, instead of weekly), but he seemed to calm down as the week progressed, too.

COLE: I'm not sure.  All I've heard about is lunch and P.E.  I'm sort of kidding, but he IS most excited about his "specials" that he gets now that he is full day (music, art, P.E., library).  He has a repeat teacher since his Kindergarten teacher moved up, so there was no hesitation there!

To celebrate the end of a long week, we had a traditional TGIF (that we hadn't had in a while).  This was followed by a full day of work at Farm Day on Sunday.  While this is a hot, hard-working day, I think the tractors, animals, and simplicity of the event was perfect therapy to prep for another week of school!  Here are some pics!
Poolin' it at TGIF

Teaching Olivia to walk through the river

Love this pic!

My booth at Farm Day - and my helper, Renee

Some of the Country Kitchen staff

Hard workers, gathering up cones and signs

It's Over

Sunday, August 17, 2014
Remember back when I wrote about things we were going to do this summer and down time and less schedules?  Remember that?  That was awesome.  But tonight I packed lunches, which means school is officially back in session tomorrow.  I can't believe it.

We managed to fit in a great day at Six Flags with the cousins on a gorgeous weather day before the weekend, however.  Cole got addicted to the Whizzer.  Paige was proud she rode (and liked) Raging Bull, and Will rode all he could and vows to grow a good inch this year to allow him more possibilities.
I need to compare this same pic with those from years' past.  I'm sure the changes in this crew are significant!

In line for Dark Coaster.  Not a fan, myself.

Blue skies, beautiful temperatures

Our dinner conversation tonight revolved around going back to school.  The kids were supposed to share one thing they are excited about and one thing they are nervous about.  Here are the answers:

PAIGE: Most nervous about finding classes on time.  Most excited about lunch periods.  (read: social time, due to the more "free roaming" style in junior high).

WILL:  Most nervous about new standardized tests this year (had not idea this was even on his radar).  Most excited about seeing his friends.

COLE:  Most nervous about walking farther to his bus stop (no driveway service like in Kindergarten).  Most excited about lunch.  (Which is ironic, because that is what I'm most nervous about.  At least the first day I am volunteering as a first grade lunch monitor to help the newbies and keep an eye on my kid).

So here's to alarm clocks, bus stops and homework!  And the ever-present anxiousness to see how their days went!

Summer Getaways

Sunday, August 10, 2014
I will never underestimate the power of a quick getaway in the summer.  No matter how many nights spent, some new experiences and different routines are just plain important every now and then.  Though we wanted to go further, our time was short and we wanted to spend little of it actually traveling, so we headed back to Lake Geneva, WI (a trip we took 2 years ago).

We stayed at a waterpark resort and had plenty of time in the water, at the arcade and hanging out in the (2-story) room.  Now, the kids think this place is awesome.  We would agree, though it's time for some updating.  Thankfully, any waterpark visit forces me to get over my slight germaphobia quickly, so I didn't let usual hotel issues bother me much.
Swimming, slides and hot tubs

And this came in handy later, too, when we went downtown to shop and to dinner.  We are in LOVE with this restaurant we visited by chance last time - an old mansion-turned-restaurant.  We had unique foods and every patron is encouraged to pick one of the MANY old-time hats on display to dine in.  (Yes, this is where the germaphobia came in, but I mind-over-matter'ed it.)
Baker House

Riviera Beach

Ice cream stop (with a choice for Cole!) while shopping

And since the trip started with a straight shot to the beach (what with the seagulls and seaweed wrapping around ankles), it's safe to say I just decided I'd feel clean 3 days later and I'd just have to wait for that.

Lastly, a quick stop since we were so close to cousin Olivia's house.  But because she had just had a vacation, too, she was having a vacation hangover complete with fever and chills, so our visit was brief but sweet!

It's funny how things change as the kids age.  So much of the time just a few years back was US making the kids happy / laugh.  Now, the kids' wit and senses of humor entertain us just as much if not more.  The conversations are rich, the laughter is plentiful and the time is precious.  I took a moment to look back at pictures of us 2 years ago in this same spot.  Turns out, aside from some height differences and differences in smiles, they look pretty similar.  I'm thankful for this, because seeing major changes in a short period of time just serves to make time feel as if it is flying by even more than it is.  

Dear Kids...

Sunday, August 3, 2014
Dear Kids,
I have loved spending this summer with you.  The big plans, the last-minute plans, the do-nothing days, the errands, the neighborhood play.  It has all been so relaxing and fun!  But I'm not going to lie...when your grandparents requested the honor of your presence for a full 24-hour period without us - I was pretty excited!  This is only the kind of excitement possible knowing that you, too, would be having a great time.  Which you did.

You got to go with your cousins to a Wild West place complete with panning for gold, horse rides, a shoot out and great dining!  Then you went to a railroad museum and back to your grandparents' house for dinner and a bonfire!  It was a full, entertaining day that you are still coming down off of!

Scary Stories and S'mores

Railroad Museum
And where did that leave your dad and I?  Well, we packed it in on this rare occasion.  We completed chores, went on a motorcycle ride (which we used to do so often before, well, all of you), went shopping and out to dinner on a gloriously beautiful day!  Now, I for sure was glued to every update sent regarding your day, but this significant change of pace was such a wonderful recharge!
This is us.  Sitting here because we want to.  And no one is asking us where we are going next, or if they can have something, or if they can ride on our backs, or if we're there yet.  glorious.

So thank you to your grandparents for giving the kids the great time - and us this time.

And I before this weekend, the kids and I had some bonding time that was anticipated since Easter, when my sister and I got the kids accessories for their bikes.  We drove our bikes to a fantastic trail that connects towns north of us.  We figured a 7-mile round trip on both sides of the river with a stop in the middle for lunch at McDonald's.  It was a great time!

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.

    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.