Saturday, July 30, 2011

Whirlwind End of July

I'm really tired. It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks and I'm trying to catch up - some highlights (and lowlights) include:

Highlight: Going to Ben's family reunion in Felt, ID (about an hour from Jackson Hole, WY) - we stayed at a cabin his uncle recently purchased. There were 30 of us total, 14 adults, 16 kids. Eight of those kids were under 5, eight were over 5. Not everyone was able to come (we were missing three of Ben's siblings/families) but it was really fun to see those who were there. My boys loved being around so many cousins and getting fishing time with Ben.

Highlight: Seeing two friends super fast before we flew back home. I of course forgot to bring out the camera with the first visit, but we saw friends that we had been great couple friends with back in the day when we were all DINKS (Double Income No Kids). 

And then these friends below just moved last month. Our kids get along so well together and we were excited to get to see them one more time before they move on to California for a new job.

Below: Eli, Charlie and Kai playing in Kai's grandparents' awesome lego room under the basement stairs.
 Being silly outside in their pjs :) Do you see Eli's (Ben's) vintage family reunion t-shirt from 1984? :)
A really awesome self-timer shot :) (our husbands went for a quick hike)
Lowlight: The flight home to O'Hare was delayed (I swear we're delayed almost every time we fly in/out of that airport). 

Highlight: Seeing old friends on the flight back who now live in the western suburbs (not so close to us).

Highlight: Coming home and feeling relieved that our basement didn't flood while we were away (Chicago had 7 inches of rain in one night that weekend that we flew back and tons of people flooded). This is the year of extreme weather here!!

Lowlight: Realizing our roof in the family room has a small leak during one of the many crazy thunderstorms this last week.

Lowlight: Collecting quotes from roofers on fixing the problems from the tree disaster two weeks ago. It's time consuming and a little depressing when they say things like, "You should replace the entire roof over the family room, not patch it." 

Highlight: We heard back from Allstate and we are getting some money to cover the repairs, which help somewhat. But not covering replacing the entire roof.

Highlight: Using a Groupon for a professional organizer to help me get our kitchen in order. We took EVERYTHING out of the kitchen cupboards and I am so happy with the end result. I wish I could hire her for helping with the whole house, but that's not happening. 

Lowlight: Realizing how much JUNK we had in that kitchen that we never use. I threw or gave away quite a few bags of stuff. It does feel good to purge.

Highlight: Photographing a home birth!!!! More to come on that.

Lowlight: Feeling totally behind with my photo sessions from right before our trip and needing to finish them, staying up all night on Monday night to get some things done and feeling like death on Tuesday. Why do I do this to myself??

Highlight: Finally posting some of those recent sessions on my photography blog (I still have three more to finish editing, including the home birth).

Highlight: Listening to my boys play together in a mostly positive way. I love it.

Highlight: Bought a macro lens on craigslist and am SO excited for my next newborn session!!

Highlight: We're off to the pool! I'll try to do a few big posts on our family reunion pictures this weekend. Happy Saturday everyone!

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Tree Landed on My Roof

This week I learned what it sounds like when 75 mph winds cause a tree to fall on your house.
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BOOM. At first I thought it was really close lightning (it was a crazy storm).
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But it was louder than lightning. Poor Charlie woke up and started calling out nervously, "Mamaaaa??? Mommy???" Eli slept right through it. Ben was already at work, so he missed all the fun. :) My neighbor called a few minutes later and said, "Sarah, I don't want to alarm you, but a tree just fell on your house."

Nope. Not alarmed!


I'm so, so glad she warned me though because I would have completely lost it if I had gone downstairs and noticed the massive tree hanging over the family room roof.
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It was a huge mess and the tree brought down a power line with it. The tree was removed two days later, but we had three days with a power line dangling off of our house and into the grass. So lovely. The fire department came initially and told me to leave right away because of the risk of fire (from the power line touching the house), but later we figured out that it wasn't a live wire anymore since it wasn't connected to a pole, just to the house next door.

We lost power for one day, but our poor neighbors went for days without it because of that power line in our yard. Stinky ComEd was swamped with 850,000 customers who lost power in the storm. That's right - 850,000 homes or apartments without power. It was nuts. Some people finally got their power back today, five days later. FIVE DAYS.
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Looking on the bright side, we were all safe, the tree didn't crash through the roof into our house, and this mess in the picture above is all cleaned up now. For the most part.

We still have to get the roof/gutters fixed in some places and fix the pergola on the deck. But all things considered, we were pretty lucky. There were trees down on almost every block in our city and all around Chicago. It looked like a tornado came through, except there were no funnel clouds. Huge old gigantic trees were uprooted, leaving huge holes behind.

Our insurance agent said he has worked here for 27 years and has never seen anything like this in our area. That destructive storm didn't even last that long!! Maybe 30 minutes?

It's craziness. I'm ready for life to get back to normal!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ben's Backpacking Trip at Picture Rocks

Ben just got back from a backpacking trip at Picture Rocks National Lakeshore, up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula on Lake Superior. He had a blast as one of the chaperones for our church's scout high adventure trip. There were three leaders, six teenage boys, crystal clear (and cold!) water, 500 ft. sand dunes, fishing, beautiful cliffs and beaches...

Here are some of the pictures from his phone from the trip. The majority are from the day they spent kayaking around these cool caves, bluffs, and waterfalls.
Aren't the rocks beautiful??
Ben said the mosquitos were the worst he's ever experienced - they put on 100% deet repellant and they were still getting eaten alive by the crazy mosquitos, so he wore long sleeves/pants that helped somewhat. Here's one of the many waterfalls seen on the trip -
These are tree roots. Yes, tree roots, stretching across an area that eroded below and the roots remain in tact.
Pretty mist at an area where they did some cliff jumping. Ben said the water was in the 50s and absolutely freezing. They would jump in and immediately swim back as fast as possible. He couldn't get over how pretty and clear the water was.
I'm so glad Ben had the chance to enjoy nature and have fun exploring a new area (this was about seven hours away). He is such an outdoorsy guy and Chicago can be a little limiting in that regard.

I held down the fort with the kids for four days with zero contact with Ben (he didn't get any cell reception because the area is pretty remote). When he pulled in really late Saturday night, I was soooo happy to have him back. It's hard going that long without even hearing that he's alive and fine!

The boys missed him like crazy, but the funny thing was that Charlie didn't quite understand that Ben was on a trip - when we finally talked to Ben on the phone on Saturday when they were driving back, Charlie asked him if he won a ping pong game, which is what Eli always asks when Ben comes home from work (there is a ping pong table there at the office). Their faces just lit up when they woke up this morning and saw their dad home again.

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Perils of Learning to Ride a Bike

We got Eli a great 16" bike for his birthday a few months ago, but after a major crash (with training wheels on), he was totally traumatized and didn't want to ride the bike again. We kept trying with that bike, but eventually decided to get a cheap 12" bike on craigslist to help Eli get comfortable with steering and not have as large of a distance to fall. I don't feel like it's a total waste since Charlie can use the 12" bike soon. We have our friends' old balance bike too, but neither child has gotten the hang of it yet.

Last week we took the boys over to the nearby elementary school to have a bigger space to practice with their bikes. It went well for a little while before Eli twisted the handlebars and fell once again. It's a sad reminder that he may still need physical therapy for the gross motor functions... but for now we will just keep practicing.
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We brought Charlie's trike along and he rode for a little bit, but was more excited about climbing on the school playground.
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After Eli biffed it on the pavement, he opted for climbing on the playground too. I was secretly glad the boys kept their helmets on because everything was higher than they are used to.
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Eventually they got tired of the helmets and let loose :)
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Thursday, July 07, 2011

You Do What You Have to Do...

Sometimes the kids' constant fighting over one darn baseball bat makes you so crazy that you go out, buy two of the same exact cheap bat from Target and do this:
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Ben took turns pitching to each kid every other time. Happy kids, happy parents.
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I don't think we'll win any parenting awards for this one. Buying two of everything isn't possible in every scenario, but when it comes to a $4 bat, sometimes it's worth saving our sanity. :)

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

4th of July Parade

Are you ready to be bombarded by parade pictures and commentary? I think they're fun and I hope you do too :)

First - Eli and Katelyn introduced us to this crazy turkey -
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Eli loved the drums in the marching band.
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No clue who these girls were, I think it was a spoof on Lady Ga Ga? (their sign says Lady Gone Gone)
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I loved the library group - (with the Jessie White tumbler practicing in front of us/them)
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Did I mention that the Jessie White Tumblers were parked RIGHT in front of where we were sitting?? The view was pretty limited, so I asked the iGo car people parked behind the tumblers if they wouldn't mind moving about 10 feet back and then got the Tumblers' van to move back too. Much better. The hilarious thing was the iGo car people had the hardest time moving their tiny Prius backward without going over the curb 10 times. I swear the lady driving was shooting daggers at me the entire time.
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A guy from a hair salon sporting huge scissors :) All of the stylists from that salon were dressed in superhero costumes.
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How on earth does this guy do that??
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More tumblers - their van moved over but they were still practicing in front of us, which was fun.
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I had to laugh at the Lake Michigan High E.Coli sign on this float - we've had a few no swim days so far at some beaches due to high e.coli counts in the water. Mmmmm doesn't it make you want to swim there the next day? (We try not to think about that too much, I love Lake Michigan.)
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Ricky Recycle had a whole chant/cheer thing going. We were happy to participate with him :) "I like to recycle! I like to recycle!"
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Can't ignore the fabulous Cubs trolley! Go Cubs.
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There's nothing like a fun parade with some cute 2-4-year-olds watching from one step. Eli had a huge tootsie roll pop in his mouth almost the entire time.
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And Charlie was a mini beach ball hoarder :) My boys were so excited about every silly thing being passed out from the parade floats.
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I'm sorry for waking you up from your nap early Charlie so we could go to the parade. You're a good sport.
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Charlie in awe of the crazy floats -
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Love these boys.
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This one is my favorite -
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But this one really made me smile - perfect depiction of their relationship (Eli making Charlie giggle):
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Okay - these girls had craaaazy eye shadow going on with sparkly red, white and blue layers. It was a good look with their very shiny silver outfits.
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After the parade, getting final wiggles out by jumping on Grant and Evy's trampoline.
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What could be more fun than jumping off of an unstable kids' table onto the trampoline? My kids thought it was very exciting.
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Finally, sliding the mini frisbee from the parade back and forth to each other.
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It was such a perfect weather day! We lucked out this year. We opted not to do fireworks again... one night was plenty.