Tuesday, December 30, 2014


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


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


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


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.