Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Bubba

Troy and I have been together 14 years. For 14 years we have come home to an eagerly waiting dog, and for a number of years, two dogs. For 14 years we've called in pet sitters for a weekend away, and kept an eye on the dog food bin so that we're sure to order more. We've kept a dedicated hook by the back door for leashes and hung dog stockings up at Christmas. Our girls have grown up accepting that dogs are a part of our family, and both have signed "dog" first. For 9 of these years we have had the pleasure of owning one of the most gentle, kind, loving, and loyal dogs that has ever existed.

On Christmas Eve we woke up and found Brinker acting lethargic. Walking, but slower. Not interested in food, pale gums. We rushed him to the vet, had tests and x-rays done and discovered that he had a massive tumor tucked under his ribs. It had started bleeding hence the reason we were now seeing symptoms. He passed away in the middle of the night. He had just turned 9 years old 2 days prior.

Brinker had a full life. He was loved and will be dearly missed. It's quiet around the house. It's hard to explain, but the house feels 'off'. I know we'll adjust, but it will take some time. We miss you Bubba.




Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day

It was a long morning. Troy and I were up first. Long before anyone else, long before the sun. So we waited...and waited.

Grace was the first to wake up. Troy went and got her from her crib and brought her into our room. She snuggled in bed with us for a while. Charlotte, who rarely sleeps late chose Christmas morning to sleep an hour later than normal. The excitement must be exhausting!

I made them wait at the top of the stairs so I could grab my camera before I let them come down. We armed Oma with a video camera and finally set them free.

Charlotte first inspected the milk and cookies. Sure enough, Santa had eaten all but half of one and some crumbs.

Mr. and Mrs. Clause brought Grace a set of Duplo blocks because rumor has it she loves the ones that they have at school. Charlotte has been asking for months for an Aurora dress and luckily Mrs. Clause was able to get her sewing machine out. Although she did say that she needed to Skype her own mom a number of times for help along the way.

We had a wonderful day. It happened by accident, but we took a new approach this year opened presents throughout the day giving the girls a chance to play with things between turns.

We've always loved Christmas, but Christmas with kids....I really don't think it gets better that this. Memories bursting at the seams around here.






Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

And all through the house....

The cookies are made

Santa Clause is being tracked

New Christmas jammies have been opened

The excitement is palatable






Monday, December 22, 2014

Cookies

Carrying on an annual tradition 7 years and counting....maybe more. I've lost count.

We get together, we bake a boatload of cookies, we catch up, we have cocktails....and then we pack up all those cookies to give away. 

We had some additional help this year from Oma and Charlotte. 

Once again Nicole - thank you for a fantastic day of Christmas cookie baking!!





Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tree

More decorating.

Each year we make a point to pick out a new ornament for the tree. This year, Charlotte picked out a nutcracker dressed like a candy cane. She of course did the honors of placing it on the tree.

Grace took a break from making breakfast to help decorate - she forgot to take off her apron.





Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ice Skating

Some shots from ice skating last weekend.
Such a great way to gear up for the holidays. Making a promise to do our best to get down there again next year.




Monday, December 15, 2014

House Guests

We planned months ago to host some of our good friends from Texas for a weekend at our place. The hope (on their part) was that they would be able to experience snow. I assured them this wouldn't be an issue....it's funny how things work out. In what has been the warmest fall and early winter that I can remember they came for snow and didn't see even a flake. (I'm not complaining).

We managed to take full advantage of the warmer-than-usual temperatures. On Monday, we took Grace to school, and ventured into the city for a special day with the older girls. First stop was ice skating at millennium park. Christmas music playing, a slight chill in the air, smiles on faces, tall buildings hugging us and 2 wide eyed, wobbly, and very happy little girls holding our hands. After a few good falls, Charlotte wanted to be done. About the same time, the crew was coming out to clean the ice so we waited around. When they were done, Charlotte wanted to go back out. 30 minutes later, and 5 okay- this-is-the-last-time-around's, we were done. She's already asking when we can go back.

After we finished skating, we found our way across Michigan avenue to some hot chocolate and a croissant. We walked around the corner to Macy's where we went from window to window to inspecting all of the brilliant displays including one complete with Santa's list. The bonus? Charlotte's name was on there. Oh, man did that make her happy.

After, we ate tacos downtown, soaked in a bit more of the city then headed back home for a quiet movie night.

Pretty amazing weekend. Great friends, new experiences, lots of fun.






Friday, December 12, 2014

Books

She will be four soon. I'm stilly struggling to understand how it has gone so fast. A lot has changed, but one thing that has remained constant: her love of books.

Every night we go through a negotiation for how many books will be read. After, as I'm closing the door and I whisper good night, she rolls over and turns on her bed side light so she can "read". We can hear her through the monitor turning pages and reciting story lines. Grace falls asleep to Charlotte's voice.

When people ask for gift ideas we always suggest books. Not because this makes us somehow feel like better parents than if we were to ask for toys (it does), but because we know how much she loves them.

During one of Oma's visits - bedtime.
Book of choice this night: Batman. We're and equal opportunity reading household. 




Sunday, December 7, 2014

Family Pictures

We took family pictures while we were back in Iowa this fall. Just a quick set up of the tripod, and the barn for the backdrop. Nothing fancy...exactly like us. 

During a break, Charlotte and Grace took over. This is what happened. 






Thursday, December 4, 2014

Visiting Santa

We had to check Santa's schedule this year to find out where we could visit him. We've settled into a routine the last few years visiting Santa at the Lincoln Park Zoo. With the move this year we needed to find a new place for our yearly visit.

We heard he was going to stop by the Elmhurst tree lighting ceremony along with real reindeer. The line was manageable, there was plenty of hot chocolate and no tears, not a one.

Charlotte asked Santa for a doll for Grace. Nothing for herself. Grace just stared. 



Monday, December 1, 2014

Bringing Out Christmas

It's always tough when Thanksgiving and Christmas land so close together. It's easy to get excited about Christmas, but a bit of a balancing act to make sure that Thanksgiving gets all the attention it deserves. C'mon, a holiday dedicated to giving thanks, celebrating what we have, and preparing delicious food - it deserves attention. But when it's over, look out. Christmas is in full swing.

In my mind I have a picture of how things should be. This happens often. And truth be told, rarely do things turn out the way I have pictured. This year, in our new home, I pictured a real Christmas tree. I planned to make time to go pick one out, bring it home, clean up all the needles, decorate, and admire. What really happened was we realized Christmas was in 3 weeks, we didn't have real tree supplies (stand, watering device, etc), and frankly didn't even know the difference between a Fir and  Pine. So, we happily settled on another year with artificial (a.k.a. fake) tree. Maybe I'll be braver next year.

So, the stockings are hung by the chimney, the tree is up and decorated - consciously leaving only non-breakables at the Grace level, the nativity scene is set, the Christmas records have been moved to the top of the pile and the garland is out. It's looking a lot like Christmas around here.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving

Just another day out of the 364 others from this year that we are incredibly thankful for all that we have. We celebrated in Iowa with Oma, Grandma and Julie. Troy cooked an amazing turkey, and all the usual culprits were in attendance: yams, greenbean casserole, pumpkin pie, etc.

Healthy - check
Together - check
Happy - CHECK

From the table this year:

Mama: "Charlotte, what are you thankful for? "
Charlotte: "My Oma"

And then my heart melted.

As we were packing to leave, Charlotte and I found a small patch of ice out by the car. She insisted on "ice skating" so I bundled her up and sent her loose. She stayed out there until her nose was frozen and her cheeks were red. Troy looked out to check on her and saw her putting items into the car. The next time I went out I asked her what she was doing. "Packing snow to take home". Naturally.

Also over the weekend: tea parties, handbag headwear and loads of smiles.







Sunday, November 23, 2014

Yuck Yuck

We're big on cooking around here. Baking included. So when one of us gets a new idea, or finds a new recipe it's a pretty safe bet that you'll find us in the kitchen within the next few days trying it out. Troy found such a recipe. A British pastry called Yum Yums. Or as we like to tease Charlotte by calling them Yuck Yucks. She giggles every time.

It's a bit of a process, and not for the faint at heart. A lot of rolling, a lot of waiting. But oh Lord they deliver. A doughnut, but better. 

We topped ours with a simple glaze and threw added blueberries to a handful of them. I may be running low on blog posts this month, but I'm ok knowing that that time is spent elsewhere....







Monday, November 10, 2014

Partner

Tonight made me happy. Not because of anything I did, but because of what others did.

I had a rare night out in the city. Truth be told, it's the first since we moved 8 months. Nicole and I met to check out what was supposedly the most legit taco pizza this side of Iowa and let me tell you, it delivered. We had a great dinner complete with cocktails and good conversation.

I walked in the door feeling refreshed albeit tired from the lingering cold that has found permanent residence in our home. I found 2 girls in bed, and one waiting up for some good night cuddles. I happily indulged. As a laid down next to her I spied a peculiar looking jar sitting next to her bed and made a note to ask Troy about it. I later found out it was homemade vix of sorts that he had made after watching the 3 of us suffer for a past couple weeks. He had put a bit of it on their chest in hopes of helping them breath easier, rubbed some on the bottoms of their feet, and finally wrapped them in socks. I walked downstairs to find a husband on the couch playing something or other on his tablet, and an open spot next to him for me. I smiled.

There were dirty dishes in the sink - there usually are. There was laundry piled up - there always is. We live here. But at the end of this very good day these things don't matter. It a big picture kind of day (something I'm trying to have more of) and the little things don't bother me. Instead of focusing on what isn't perfect, I focus on what is. I sit down on the couch with a glass of wine and look at my husband. I take a few moments to really appreciate the fact that very little of what I do would be possible or made nearly as enjoyable without this man sitting next to me. He supports me in everything I do, and makes the 3 of us his first priority. Always.

I'm writing this with him sitting next to me. As I pause I look up at him. He can feel me looking at him and looks over and smiles. I'm lucky. I know this. I found the one that makes homemade vix rub. I found the one that makes me laugh. I found the other piece of myself.








Thursday, November 6, 2014

Kansas Abridged

Last week, between the visit from friends and Halloween chaos, what I didn't mention was a heavy-hearted trip back to Kansas.

Saturday afternoon we received the news that a close family friend, whom had battled with illness for the past year had passed away. It was a tough call to receive, but an easy decision to make the trip back. Lucky for us, logistics were in our favor. Oma lives along the way so we left abruptly Monday night, stopped for a few more hours of sleep, left Brinker at the farm (the real one, not "the farm"), and woke up early Tuesday to get back on the road.

Six hours later, with 2 very antsy little girls we checked into a the local motel, dropped off bags and left again.

We spent a few hours catching up with the family while the girls were entertained by the army of kids there. It was a good visit. These are amazing people. Welcoming people. This is the first group from Troy's past that I met outside of his immediate family. As I soon found out, this wasn't by chance....this is actually an extension of his family. I firmly believe these amazing individuals played a very big part in shaping my husband into the person he is. Because of this, I am forever grateful. Because of this I can feel his pain as we make the drive back to his original home.

It was a beautiful service. Pews were packed and overflow rooms were quickly filled. Tears were free flowing as were smiles. Every person there had stories they could have told. Sad stories, unforgettable stories, stubborn stories, and many, many, many mentoring stories. But the undertone of every one of these is kindness, passion, and love. That is who he was. That and many more things.

It is absolutely amazing to me how at a time like this, a family can be so selfless. We were there for them, yet they offered up their homes, fed us, and even took the time to think about nursery arrangements for our girls during the service.

Like I said these are amazing people.

Charlotte and I having a chat before bed

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Leaves

The best part about fall are the piles of leaves.

Troy raked them up, and we postponed nap time to run, throw, jump and bury ourselves in various hues of the season. Nap times can wait. We're busy.




Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween

A family of superheroes...and a villain. 

As it turns out, Troy got his superhero Halloween after all. Even more unbelievable is that it took no bribing. Just a small clarification: Wonder Woman is a pricess....an Amazon princess. Once Charlotte realized she could be both princess and super hero there was no turning back.

Charlotte weighed in on what everyone should be this year. We stepped back, let her drive and enjoyed the ride. 

Halloween day of course hosted the worst weather we've had yet this year. Cold and windy. But, as it turns out, snow pants go quite well under Wonder Woman's boots. And an extra blanket on Batgirl is just another cape.

We toughed out the cold for as long as we could. Batgirl and I walked home a little early to hand out candy while Superman and Wonder Woman stopped at all the houses they could before their fingers turned blue.

What an awesome holiday this is. Until next year...










Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pumpkin Patch

While we were in Iowa we made a trip to the pumpkin patch.

It was post naptime, pre 4 hour drive, so like anything we made the best of it. Pumpkin patches have come a long way since the Mr. and I were kids. Aside from the obvious, pumpkins, there are bounce houses, bounce pillows, petting zoos, tree houses, games, rides and more. Frankly, it's out of control.

All the same, we had a blast, raised expectations as to what a pumpkin patch really is, bought a couple of overpriced pumpkins, and spent time together.







Sunday, October 19, 2014

Iowa

We're in Iowa this weekend. A light agenda for the few days we are here. 

 We enjoyed a rare adult evening out with a group of old friends. One of which I hadn't seen in over 15 years. And while we weren't terribly close to one another when we were younger, we had no problem finding common ground as adults....kids tend to do that. And wine. 
Great evening out without kids...where not surprisingly kids were the main topic of conversation. 

Church with Grandma and Charlotte tomorrow followed by a trip to the pumpkin patch Monday before heading back home. 

Never enough time at the farm. This weekend we marveled at the fall colors. We jumped in leaves and rolled down hills. Charlotte (of course) asked Oma to read bedtime stories and Grace made sure we were all up bright and earlier - would hate to miss a sunrise. Good stuff. 






Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Perfect Weekend

This kind of day is what I picture in my head when Thursday afternoon rolls around and the weekend can't come soon enough. Generally all hell breaks loose starting Friday evening though and we find ourselves cramming everything we can into the following 2 days.

But today was different. We had no plans. So we let the day evolve. We went to the park. We prepped the yard for winter. We had lunch picnics in the living room.

I enjoy the hectic, jam packed fun weekends. I love seeing the girls smile at gymnastics classes, and birthday parties. I love hosting our favorite groups of people and seeing how they breathe in our girls like a breath of fresh air. I love crazy weekends. But I enjoy these slow going ones just as much.