Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kansas Comes to Chicago

10 hours. That's how long it would take me drive to Lawrence, KS and home of two of our best friends. It used to take me exactly 10 minutes to get to their house. I miss those days.
We share such a great bond with our close group of friends, and having two of them stay with us for the weekend was so very fulfilling.

The whole weekend seemed to fly by. Trips to the zoo, afternoon cocktails, a game of bags, grilling out on the patio with more friends, mimosa brunch, naps, pizza, laughing hysterically at old pictures, a blues club and one last dinner out to celebrate us. We lift our glasses and toast our reunion. To us. To our friendship.

I'm always amazed at how easy it is around really good friends. How after months and years of not seeing one another I realize how complete my life is with them in it. And perhaps where it is most evident is how they are around their "niece". When asked what they wanted to do for the weekend the answer was simple and without thought: "Spend time with you guys and Charlotte - do whatever Charlotte can do". And so we did. Because just as we are a part of each others lives, so are our children.

We had an incredible weekend that forced us to relax and enjoy what's most important to us.

Very few pictures. My hands were too busy enjoying good food, thumbing through photos circa the 2000's, and holding my daughter.

Thank you Gayle and Chris for coming to stay with us. But thank you even more for being truly amazing friends. We are lucky and blessed to have you in our lives....even if you did rock the hair gel a little too hard in 2002.


Original picture taken almost exactly 10 years ago to the day on Deidra's 21st birthday. 


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sunday

We're not overly religious people. We don't go to church every Sunday or say Grace before dinner. We don't have bibles strewn around the house, naughty words occasionally slip through our lips, and our 8 year old niece could tell you many more bible stories than I can recall.

That's not to say that we don't believe in the same set of priciples and ideals that many of you do. It's just another way to say that we all have different ways of practicing our beliefs. Our faith.
And this past Sunday this was our "sevice".
Sermon: Family

Our road trip back from Michigan was full of adventure. We stopped at random thrift stores as I hollered out "This Exit!", we treasure hunted through antique stores down the coast. Charlotte scored her first cars for 50 cents each and made sure to test them out before she committed to such an important purchase.

But the best part of the trip was lunch. We pulled off onto a sleepy Michigan lake shore town with the intention of setting up a picnic on the beach and playing in the water for a bit. But we stumbled upon something even better. A quaint downtown with lots of little shops dedicated to junk. New junk, old junk, gazillion year old junk, and variety store junk. We tried on hats, and sunglasses, and made a point of going down every aisle to make sure we didn't miss any of the important junk.

Afterwards we ate the worst hummus of our lives while sitting next to this water park area next to the beach. Needless to say, we never made it to the sand. One and a half hours later we had a very tired albeit sopping wet little girl. She napped the remaining 2 hours back to Chicago.

Good weekend. I'm ready to do it all over again.








Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blueberries

Best. Weekend. Ever.
No really, I can't think of the last time I've had a weekend this outstanding.

Early Saturday morning we loaded the car up, turned the music up, and took our breakfast to go. And as we passed by a sleepy Chicago skyline and sipped our iced coffee we bid farewell to the city for the day.

Up Interstate 90, through no less than a billion old steel towns and down a one lane dirt road we found our destination. An organic blueberry farm where we could pick our own berries. Glorious Michigan ripe on the bush blueberries.

We armed ourselves with two buckets. One of the plastic pink variety that normally houses sand and another more suitable for carrying the berries. We picked, and ate, picked, and ate. Until our lips were stained blue and our bucket was full. Bucket - singular. A certain someone carried an empty bucket the whole time preferring to just put her berries directly into her mouth. I can't blame her. They were perfect.

Nine pounds we walked away with. And by the time we got home Sunday that was down a pound. We like our berries.

We stopped for lunch up the road from the farm at a little roadside pie pantry. But because we had eaten a couple hundred handfuls of blueberries by this time we weren't terribly hungry. But when in Rome....so we had the cherry crisp with vanilla ice cream. Devoured in a matter of minutes.

All of this, including the drive and it was only 1:00. How did we spend the rest of the day? Checking into the hotel, napping, afternoon swimming, and dinner out at a delicious local place.

And just as we were getting ready to throw the figurative towel "in" the Mister and I decided we'd keep the adventurous spirit going. Just a 40 minute drive west was a drive in movie theatre and we already had a sleeping toddler in the backseat. Done.

Things didn't work out exactly as expected. One movie later, and a still awake, albeit very content 1 year old, we were on our way back to the hotel. Charlotte was a trooper staying up until 11. Apparently she wanted to ring in a "first" with Mama. Now we can cross "drive-in theatre" off both our lists.

And that is how we do a proper Saturday.

Sunday recap to come, but it's late tonight and I'm going to end this wonderful weekend curled up on the couch next to the Mister.









Thursday, July 19, 2012

Birthday

It's my birthday today.
And as I put another year of experience behind me things become clearer. It's not an overnight thing, or even over the course of a year, but more of the course of the past 31, that I've come to appreciate the little pieces of life. The quiet parts in between all the "noise".

My phone rang early today, just as it has the past 13 years I've lived away from home. With my Mom on the other end with a one woman rendition of "Happy Birthday". If you've met me, you know I can't sing - I get this from my Mom. This year she got lazy and stopped at "happy birthday"...the first two words - next year maybe she'll get to the end of the first verse...

Last night when the Mister asked what I wanted to do for my day, my answer was pretty simple. I wanted to spend time with my family. That's all.

We had dinner not too far from our place. And then stopped next door for a quick photo booth shot. I heart photo booths. And this one stole my heart with all of it's vintage black and white glory. No digital prints here. Love.

We ended the night a few brown line stops north at Margies. Ice cream in July. It's the law.

Like I said, it's about the little things. The ice cream kisses and photo booth strips. The Mister giving me a ride to work and my mom calling to sing. And all of the amazing friends and family who called/texted/facebooked/emailed me today. Happy birthday to me!





Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Week Recap in Photos

Just a few stories to tell through photos. Having a fantastic week and looking forward to a weekend that will top it.
Farmers Market Saturdays. Fresh cut flowers, cheese samples, berries, peaches, tamales. Fairly certain this is what heaven is like.


Movies in the park. Happy Feet 2. Popcorn in a brown paper bag, jammies, and a class A meltdown an hour past bedtime.



Forts on Sunday morning. Supplies: Old quilt, Furniture to drape over, and books to read once inside.


Unicorn Hair. Not staged.

And not pictured: Date night with the Mister - crossing off "Blues Club" from the Chicago bucket list.

Like I said, great week...and it's only going to get better...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Popsicles

"MuaHahaha!!!" That's what our thermostat, if we had one, would have read last week.

We live in Chicago so we're allowed to complain about the weather. But not usualluy in the summer. We have beautiful summers. Summers that make the other 8 months of crappy cold weather worth the high rent, bad traffic, high child care costs and cramped quarters.

But last week was ridiculous. And I know that it wasn't just us...this heat wave passed on a little love to everyone across the nation. Brutal.

But we have a secret weapon. Frozen, icy, fruity little air conditioners.
Popsicles are cool. Cool like cassette tapes and tight rolled jeans in the 90's.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Letter to Charlotte - 18 Months

EIGHTEEN months. One and a half years. Like a mantra I keep repeating it over and over in my mind. Trying to make sense of where all this time has gone. I really think there must be some cruel time warp that happens when you have children. It makes days turn into minutes, and the bad days fade away leaving memories of happy days, nightime stories and little toes. And as I live each day and really feel like I'm soaking up every moment....promising myself, "I won't forget this" some of them still manage to escape. They must. Because as I look back today I can't explain how eighteen months have passed.

You've graduated to the Toddler room at school, and from open mouth kisses to an actual pucker. An exagerated hollywood style pucker. When you run you throw your arms back as if to balance out your top half as it leans well over your toes. You say "yeah" to everything. You are flexible. Appriciating a schedule, but not in need of one. I love this about you because it means a forgiving attitude toward your father and I's "schedule". It means pushing back naptime for a last minute picnic in the park, or trip to the zoo. You make traveling to new places easy. New stuff, new timezones, new beds, etc...none of it phases you. You are able to just settle in as if nothing has changed. Your favorite food is fruit. Any fruit. Even moreso than cookies. I like that.

"She talks a lot" is what we hear from your school teachers. I have to smile, because I know you get that from your Dad. He's outgoing and never afraid to be heard. I hope you take after him that way. Your vocabulary get's larger every day. You say "upa" instead of  "up" as in "up a-bove the world so high" and I hesitate to correct you because I love the way that you have translated this lullabye into your vocabulary. But I do...most of the time.

I want so much for you as you get older. For you - not of you. Remember that. I wish that I could bottle up this attitude that you have of the world right now and hand it back to you when you are 7, 16, 18, 25, 30....any age. Because right now, your world is far less complicated than it will ever be. You are 100% yourself. Confident. Self-assured. You are not influenced by what others think or say. At some point this will be tested. It's part of life. Remember to stay true to yourself. Be your own person and use your own compass to guide you. March to the beat of your own drum as they say. Also, and this is important, understand how what you do affects others. The balance between these is delicate. A life long lesson and one that I still struggle with.

Even at such a young age I see something so very special in you Charlotte. You have a gift. You bring so much joy to a room and people want to be around you. Use that. Love yourself. Embrace who you are and others will to.


Every day you amaze me. You humble me. Right down to my very core.
You make me proud to be your mother.

I love you Charlotte Jean.

Love,
Mama


Polar Bear at Lincoln Park Zoo




Thursday, July 5, 2012

Family Reunion - Part II (The less sappy version)

1,000 plus photos. That's what my SD card said when I downloaded them all for the weekend. A good number were duplicates courtesy of the Mister because he REALLY likes the 'burst' mode.

And one thing is evident as I scroll through all of these. My child loves herself some people. From her youngest cousins to the oldest generation, and everyone in between, she loves being around them. Especially Oma.

My only regret is that Charlotte won't remember any of this weekend. So this is us preserving these memories for her: Fishing, sandboxes, pools, ponds, games of hide and seek, tag, swings, late night talks with cousins, aunts and uncles, family dinners, noodles, grassy paths, paddle boats, honey, flowers, "remember when's", birthday candles, laughter, sunshine, bare feet, LOVE.

This weekend had high expectations, and it delivered.





Sunday, July 1, 2012

Family Reunion - Part I (The sappy version)


We packed the car up early Saturday morning for a short road trip to Wisconsin. It was my great uncle's 90th birthday party and as a result also a family reunion.

We would only be gone a few days so the packing was light. A couple bags, a couple laptops, one baby, one Oma, one husband, our favorite quilt, and a stomach full of butterflys.

I had that feeling; the one you get when you're about to be around people that you haven't seen in years. The pressure to remember everyone's name and story. And what about the people that you were close to when you grew up - what if you had nothing in common now? People change. For better for worse, people change. They grow up, some have kids, some marry, some divorce, some travel the world, and some never leave home. We change, we evolve, we grow, but most of all, we love. That's our common denominator.

That's the thing about family, regardless of where we end up in life, how much money we do or don't have, what our job titles are, how we dress, what music we listen to, or what kind of car we drive....none of it matters. Our success is guaged by the family we have behind us. Because in the end, what is life without the people we love?

To any of our family reading this: Thank you. Thank you for supporting Troy and I. Thank you for loving our daughter. Thank you for helping us to become the people we are today. And even though we may go days, months, years, or even decades without seeing one another we take comfort in the fact that we are here for one another.

We had an amazing weekend and I was reminded of how great our family is. Fourty eight people were able to make it back. Fourty eight. Incredible.

My grandma was one of eight children. Of those, there are four survivors, one of whom is now 90 years old. Seeing these four together was amazing. And oh how my grandma would have loved sitting around that table giving her siblings a hard time. Laughing, catching up, reminicing. She was there - I know she was.

My favorite part though was getting aquanted and reaquainted with people that I hadn't spoke to in years. My cousins: The one's that I was close to, as well as the those that seemed so much older growing up only to find that those few years between us now are barely noticeable. My aunts and uncles: We're now THAT generation - the one that we remember being "old" growing up. The ones that stood in kitchens or by the grill talking, and stayed up after the kids went to bed to play one last game of pitch. That's us now. And the grandparents: Oh the grandparents. I have now words for that generation. They come from a different time. A different place. And if we can give our kids even a fraction of the memories that I heard talked about this weekend then I will have consired their childhoods a triumphant success.

A special thank you to our hosts for the weekend - thank you for opening your homes to us and organizing a weekend that will be remembered for a long time to come.