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 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.

COLE

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.

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.
Love,
Mom

***
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!