Wednesday, November 29, 2017

October Round Up

October

As October dawned we got ready to say goodbye to Auntie Lauren and Uncle Doug's house, a place we've spent a considerable amount of time over the past several years.

Evelyn and Martin

Evelyn and Martin got to enjoy their last arguments in the old house, preparing for fresh and new trivial things to get in shouting matches about when they move into their new place.

Canadian Thanksgiving

We also hosted a Canadian Thanksgiving feast for the largest group since we moved here. It still doesn't top thirty-five adults at our old two bedroom apartment but it was pretty close albeit far easier.

Roast Turkey

Even the turkey, usually not the highlight of any Thanksgiving I prepare, turned out pretty well.

Josie Picks Out New Bed

The following day we took Josie to IKEA to pick out a big girl bed. This took her just under two seconds as she ran across the showroom and leapt into her bed of choice. I can only wish that her mother and I could come to decisions at IKEA with that amount of expedience.

Josie's Old Crib

So it was that we said goodbye to her crib, a crib that has served us well for over five years and is thoroughly warped, stained, and damaged form hard use.

Josie Helping Me Build her New Bed

I spent the afternoon putting the new bed together, a task made much easier when there's a two-year-old assisting you.

Josie's New Bed

And in ushers the era of no cribs. The interesting thing, six weeks later, is that Josie still hasn't figured out that she can get out of her bed on her own. This is actually pretty handy in that we don't have to worry about any surprises. Still she will call for us to come and remove her from bed. I'm not sure how long this will last but I'll enjoy it while there are only two wanderers I need to be concerned about.

Josie in Baba's Bed

We even got a new bed for Baba, something Josie was eager to test out personally before allowing Baba to try it out.

Martin Reads "Hug Machine" to Josie

Martin read Josie a bedtime story per her request and she went to sleep really easily. Perhaps not having a twin in the same room to cause trouble with makes the transition to a regular bed a little easier.

Family Photos

I had a brief break as I traveled home to Rhode Island for a family wedding.

Cousins!

I got a chance to see my cousin Rebecca, someone I don't get to see enough. It was a beautiful wedding and the joy of sleeping without children around was not lost on me in the least.

Trunk or Treat (2017)

Back home the kids got to do trunk or treat at Josie's day care.

Downtown Trick or Treating

They then did trunk or treat downtown at all the local businesses.

Pumpkin Carving

We carved a pumpkin on the night before Halloween and watched some Halloween specials. We've tried about a dozen different Halloween specials this year but the kids were mostly afraid of everything. Even the Garfield Halloween special was too much for them. The Bugs Bunny special gave them nightmares. The only reason I kept trying is because they claim to love spooky things. Apart from The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown special I haven't found much that is in the correct spooky range for these kids.

Trick or Treating on Halloween Night

Finally we concluded the week with Halloween proper where we did trick or treating again. By this time Josie and Martin were done. Elliott had a bit more stamina but Josie and Martin had had enough of the whole process by this point. Martin looked up at me and said, "Okay, Daddy, I think I have enough candy now. Can we go home?"

This is something I don't ever recall saying as a child. I only got to go trick or treating once and I had to be dragged back home.

And so continues my smooth transition into old manhood. Kids today, they don't know how good they have it!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

September Recap

September saw some pretty nice weather this year, like every year. Normally we just assume that the leaves will be falling and the smell of hot cider will fill the air as soon as September first hits. Instead we're generally walking around all sweaty trying to force the season and pretending we like pumpkin spice.

Josie Pitching

The boys had a lot of fun playing baseball, however, Josie always insists on pitching. While her stance is adorable her accuracy leaves a little something to be desired. The boys want me to pitch but Josie's screams of protest are usually enough for them to humor her at the expense of their own fun.

Frozen Garden Tomatoes

Like we do most septembers we loaded up the fridge with all manner of garden and farm vegetables, mostly in the form of peeled and diced tomatoes.

Mixed Grill on Polenta

Our friends Debbie and Michele came to visit which meant I could cook something nice for one of the three or four times a year I am granted the time to do so. I made a mixed grill with chicken, ribeye steak, and a friend's homemade sausage on a bed of creamy polenta.

Dinner on the Deck with Debbie and Michele

We also got to enjoy a drink or two on the deck, something we had hoped to do many times this summer but didn't happen until mid September.

Martin as Goalie

Martin continued his constant goalie practice in the driveway and roped anyone he could into playing with him whether it was a brother, parent, grandparent, neighbor, or someone simply walking past our house.

Elliott Riding Bike

Elliott spent most of his time riding his bike. Martin has given up on riding his bike. Even though he can do it, he decided that since he fell once that riding bikes is just not for him.

Apple Picking

We also got in early on the apple picking this year. Since the kids are in school full time we weren't able to go on a weekday and have the entire orchard to ourselves. We did, however, get a chance to enjoy some cider donuts and have it feel a little less like we were trespassing on someone's private orcahrd after hours.

After School Pokemon Hunt

A few days running I have taken the boys out to play Pokemon after I picked them up for school. I even purchased the Pokemon GO late for them in the only setting where I did not feel embarrassed to order it. It's much less shameful when there are five-year-olds around.

Martin Meeting Dogs

As with any Pokewalk we take Martin manages to convince every dog owner he meets to stop so he can pet their dogs. I'm shocked at how few dog owners are annoyed by this.

Wood Plank

At the end of the month my wood plank arrived, a vertical slab from a cedar tree. With a lot of research (and even more luck) I intend to make a charcuterie board to be ready for Christmas this year. If you don't see it in my Christmas pictures this year and I don't mention it you will know that something has gone wrong and that I have spent a lot of time and money effectively ruining a beautiful piece of wood.

Let's hope for a Christmas miracle!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Summer Fun Done

As summer draws to a close we are faced with wrapping up the last few items from our Summer Fun List with the kids. Sure there are technically three more weeks but with the boys starting Kindergarten we are effectively in the fall, thinking about pumpkins, Halloween, and hot cider as we sweat in the ninety degree heat.

Helping Daddy with Flood

August began with a huge rainfall that had me dashing out into the yard, wading through shin-deep puddles and trying to fix our sump pump exterior drain as hail pelted me in the head and bare feet. I returned inside, soaked, and greeted by the boys who had gone into the basement and gotten as much emergency gear as they could to help me out.

Back to School Shopping

Soon we found ourselves at Target buying the most insanely specific set of back to school supplies including things I had never imagined even existed such as pre-sharpened pencils. Why buy a dozen unsharpened pencils for $0.34 when you can get them sharpened for just $6.99?

Hawk in Yard

Back at home a family of Coopers Hawks (which previously I thought was just the name of a restaurant) have taken up residence in our yard. This explains why we haven't seen any rabbits this summer. That and the fact that a family of raccoons also decided to call our yard home as well. Thankfully the raccoons have been persuaded to go elsewhere before they took up residence in our attic as seems to be fairly common around here.

First Baseball Game

We also took the boys to their first baseball game with Grandad. They are still talking about it and we are still required to play baseball in the yard daily to reenact the game we saw in an alternate reality where the home team actually wins and the River Bandits lose in disgrace.

Paddleboats

Much to Elliott's delight we also hit the paddle boats before they closed down for the season. This has not prevented them from asking about going back to the paddle boats again every day since.

Pokemon Go Raid

We also hit some Pokemon Go raids as a group where Martin and Elliott boasted to the hordes of twenty-somethings about their impressive stable of Pokemon that they have caught.

Renaissance Faire

We also went back for our annual trip to the Renaissance Fair which is always a hit. Every year the weather gets better, we stay longer, and the boys have fewer meltdowns. I'm sure this will all be for naught as soon as we bring Josie into the mix on our annual trip and all hell breaks loose.

Ready for Fun at the Beach

We made it to Centennial Beach on the exact last day of the season which was nowhere near as busy as we thought it would be. We got to get a great swim in before retiring our flotation devices for the season.

Baba with Sunscreen

Josie took extra care before we went to the beach by making sure she lathered up Baba for some fun in the sun.

Josie's First Day of Beginners

Soon after Josie began her first day in her new classroom which went over very smoothly.

Kindergarten Preview

The boys got to attend their Kindergarten preview and set up their rooms for the school year.

New Yard Drainage System

Back at home we were having a drainage system installed so that we could avoid future flooding, hail-related toe injuries, and save Martin and Elliot the trouble of haivng to suit up to assist me by running around the house screaming as I redirect pipes in the yard.

First Day of Kindergarten

The first day of school was a huge hit. On my first day of kindergarten I was fine until a girl in my class, Chelsea, lost it and fell on the floor screaming at her mother. I remember thinking that she must know something I don't know then I became very emotional.

On the boys' first day of kindergarten I was also fine, that is until I saw the other parents sobbing and I once again wondered what they knew that I didn't and I too became emotional.

The circle is now complete.

Bike Ride

The boys are both doing extremely well with their new pedal bikes. They picked it up right away and have gotten by with only minor crash-related injuries. I've been more concerned about what will happen if one of then careens into Josie as she gets used to her balance bike.

Kindergarten Drop Off

Jen flew out of the country for four days and I got to experience dropping off and picking up the kids from school every day which was a lot of fun. It's amazing how fast six hours goes by. It doesn't leave one with time to do very much. I can only imagine what the parents of half day kindergarteners would have done in the past.

Scott Scoot

The school organized a 5k race which went right by our house and we were able to go watch it on Saturday morning and cheer on the participants as they ran past.

At the Bouncy Park

After a failed nap attempt for Josie we all went to the park where the boys insisted on dressing like Mario and Luigi for unknown reasons.

At the Bouncy Park

They also befriended some extremely friendly middle-schoolers who were fishing.

At the Bouncy Park

The fishing kids were so nice and they showed all three of the kid show to fish, let them all try it, and even gave them some lures to take home as a souveneir.

Josie in "Daddy's Bed"

When Jen was away Josie decided that she would sleep in "Daddy's Bed." This is the nest of spare duvets that I keep beside her crib when I or Jen inevitably end up sleeping in her room to get her back to sleep in the middle of the night.

Josie with Birthday Party Present

On Sunday we all went to the boys' friend's house for her birthday party.

Moana Birthday Party Theater

It had been planned as an outdoor party but with some raid the kids all ended up in the basement watching Moana in an amazing home theater setup. Needless to say no one complained about this, particularly the parents who all hung out in the bar which was conveniently located adjacent to the movie theater.

To make things even better it cleared up as soon as the movie was over and everyone played outside for the remainder of the party.

With summer wrapping up we gear up for fall. Elliott is already excited for his favorite holiday, Halloween. Martin is ready for colder weather which is more conducive to playing hockey. Josie, she's just ready to wreak havoc in yet another season.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Five!

Late June and Early July saw us entertaining a large assortment of house guests, probably a record for any 3-4 week stretch in the past. This was great. When we moved here in 2013 we had this idea that we would buy a house with a nice guest room and be constantly having people over for nice meals. In reality I don't know if either of us really believed that would ever happen but here we are nearly four years later having had dozens and of stays in our guest room and it has been great.

Silhouettes at the Shedd Aquarium

Our friend Heather was the first to stay with her son Declan. We all took a trip to the Shedd Aquarium where they had a blast not remembering much from our previous trip.

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AFter the trip we had a photo shoot with the kids outside the aquarium.

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We also took the boys on some continued Pokemon hunts which always entertain them though they generally get too involved in the game and sometimes nearly get hit by bicycles. Josie has no idea what they are up but enjoys the trips nonetheless.

Pokemon Hunt

Usually Martin always finds someone with a dog that he asks to pet. Elliott takes advantage of Martin's gregarious nature and gets to pet the dogs too but usually hides behind my legs until Martin has done a few minutes of ice-breaking with the stranger.

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On Jen's birthday we took the kids to a family farm with a butterfly pavilion, hiking path, and play area.

Peck Farm Visit for Jen's Birthday

We had cousins Evelyn and Oliver along as well for the ride.

Peck Farm Visit for Jen's Birthday

They were super happy to enjoy the play area which defied all expectations.

Peck Farm Visit for Jen's Birthday

As we hiked down to the water the kids went rogue and Evelyn ended up losing her shoe in the mud which lead to her being less than thrilled and eventually getting washed off in a water fountain.

Peck Farm Visit for Jen's Birthday

Martin, for some forgotten reason, got cranky about something but failed to see how his mood could not be taken seriously as he had chosen to wear a pink basket on his head.

Jenny's Birthday Dinner

For Jen's dinner we made a shrimp boil along with cheese spread for the birthday girl.

Jenny's Birthday Dinner

Hopefully Jen had as much fun on her birthday as she gave her children over the course of the day.

Pokemon Go Raid in the Park

On a Saturday morning there was a Pokemon Raid in the park by our house. I took the boys where we battled and they both got a chance to catch the Raid Boss. We usually have mixed results with that so a lot of mental preparation needs to go into getting them to accept that the boss bay flee.

Martin and Elliott's New Friend

During the raid Martin met a fellow Mystic team player and he gave him some pointers on the finer points of gym battling.

A Toast to Bourdeaux

Our next guests were Matt, Rene, and their two children. The last time we all hung out was in France in 2011 before any of us had any children. The visit this time gave us a little less time to focus on adult conversation but it was still a lot of fun.

Wine from Bourdeaux Trip

They brought with them one of the bottles of wine they'd purchased in Bourdeaux during our road trip together. It was one of the most thoughtful and nice gifts they could have brought and the wine survived the years and the trip beautifully.

Summer Mixed Grill

For dinner I made a mixed grill with chicken, ribeye, and some amazing Italian sausage made by a friend of mine. The sausage was a late addition as it had been given to me unexpectedly that day. I thought making it would be overkill but there was next to nothing left.

"Can I ask you a question?"

Matt, who is a veterinarian, got to experience Martin who, upon learning he was a veterinarian, peppered him with questions about animals nonstop for the next 48 hours.

Asleep in Car After Fireworks

On July 4th we took them to see the fireworks and, for the second year in a row, they passed out in the car on the ride home and it made for an easy but rare car-to-bed transfer.

Nana Art Time

A couple of days later Nana and Grandpa arrived ahead of the boys' birthday. Nana was ready to entertain the boys with some art lessons.

Martin Helping Grandpa

Grandpa got to work replacing some boards on the deck which he never would have been able to do without Martin's extraordinary hammering abilities.

Martin and Elliott's Fifth Birthday

For the first time we ended up having a party for the boys' friends at school. Since about 70% of their classmates also celebrate July birthdays we got ahead of it this year by sending out invitations in April.

Martin and Elliott's Fifth Birthday

This year's cakes (by request) were Wild Kratts and Paw Patrol themed.

Martin and Elliott's Fifth Birthday

They got a lot of great gifts and celebrated by transforming into the Wild Kratts. Elliott even insists that his name is Chris some of the time. Go creature power!

New Bikes

They also got their first pedal bikes. They were very excited about this but then, when they learned that they could not instantly ride them at expert level, they lost a bit of interest.

Evelyn's Birthday Soccer Game

The next Day Evelyn celebrated her birthday with friends and there was an epic soccer game which was extremely well organized as it was played by four and five-year-olds.

Evelyn's Birthday Soccer Game

Both boys took to their maternal grandfather roots and insisted on playing goalie.

New Cameras

The boys also got cameras for their birthday. Elliott loves taking pictures. Unfortunately he also loves video games which, for some reason, the cameras have. After a brief photoshoot in the yard Elliott could be found on the couch playing Arkanoid on his camera for the next half hour.

Andy's After Dinner

Grandpa also treated the gang to ice cream, a classic Grandpa move.

Naperville Ale Fest (2017)

Grandpa and me also got to take our fourth annual trip to the Naperville Alefest, and possibly our best. The weather was beautiful, we brought chairs, and found a great spot under a shady tree where we enjoyed a number of tasty local beers and delicious lobster rolls.

Saying Goodbye

The next day it was time to say goodbye to Nana and Grandpa and embark on our journey to Wisconsin for the start of our family vacation. The trip took about an hour longer than planned due to road closures from flooding. We got to dive through some completely flooded neighborhoods which brought back some bad memories for Jen and I.

Timber Ridge

We got to Timber Ridge just before dinner and spent a good amount of time swimming up an appetite.

Timber Ridge

We learned our lesson from last year. While the room and swimming is top notch the food was pretty sub par and very overpriced. Instead we went grocery shopping and I made elbows with marinara sauce for the five children and three adults. Total cost: $3.00.

Timber Ridge Trip

The next day we spent hours in the pool before and after lunch. The boys were able to get their own life jackets which gave them a freedom they hadn't previously experienced.

Timber Ridge Trip

After the morning swim the boys took to the deck where Elliott enjoyed a casual lunch.

Timber Ridge Trip

Overall the kids had a blast and we look forward to returning again, maybe even during the winter months.

Finally Baby Gate Free

Finally Baby Gate Free

Once back at home I could take it no longer and finally removed the baby gate at the top of the stairs. The new width at the top of the stairs is an unbelievable luxury. The keen eye will also notice that the aesthetic is ever so subtly improved.

Twilight Swim

We also took advantage of twilight swim at the nearby pool. The term "twilight swim" sounds a bit more magical than it actually is. Since it runs from about 6:00pm to 8:00pm in July it just seems like any normal swim given that the sun is out the entire time. The only difference is that the kids don't realize how late it actually is and become disoriented when you tell them they have to go to bed as soon as they get home.

Twilight Swim Ice Cream

Their objections were solved with a few servings of Superman ice cream. Since she is a nasty creature she demanded my delicious chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream and I was left struggling through a cup of nasty Superman ice cream.

Jen's New Bike

On the way back from the swim we stopped off at a house where Jen bought an extremely reasonably priced bike and I rode it home for her since she doesn't like riding a bike in sandals. I hope she liked riding home in a car full of screaming children. My ride home was as peaceful as could be.

The Museum of Science and Industry

The next day we headed to the Museum of Science and Industry to meet with Jen's childhood friend and her family. Elliott waited patiently in line behind three other children for a chance to play this game where you navigate a tractor around a map harvesting wheat. Since it was a video game he sniffed it out within moments of entering the museum.

The Museum of Science and Industry

Martin had a great time dropping the trucks down inclines lined with different materials and guessing which would reach the bottom first.

Asleep on Way to Michigan

After the visit Josie was unconcsiouc before we even left the parking lot. She ended up sleeping most of the way to Kalamazoo.

Dinner at One Well Brewing

Our first stop in Kalamazoo was the same as our last stop on our previous visit, and for good reason. One Well Brewing is possibly the best restaurant and brewery you can visit with kids.

Dinner at One Well Brewing

The boys got to play video games.

Dinner at One Well Brewing

Josie got to play pinball and watch Moana all while we got a chance to eat dinner, have a few beers, and enjoy the company of Auntie Lisa and Uncle Adam.

Bunk Bed Buddies

When we got to the hotel the boys were thrilled about getting bunk beds.

Breakfast at Hotel

Josie had a horrible night so I took her out really early with Martin and the three of us had breakfast while Mummy and Elliott got an extra hour or so of sleep.

Air Zoo Trip

Air Zoo Trip

We took the kids back to the Kalamazoo Air Zoo, the sleeper hit of our 2016 road trip. There they spent most of the time riding rides. Unfortunately we had to go on with them for some of them. Spinning in circles just doesn't quite hold the same charm these days that it did as a child.

Air Zoo Trip

While they enjoyed the rides I really enjoyed their new exhibit of Star Wars action figures. Seeing them in their original packaging was incredible. They were under glass so people wouldn't steal them and sell them for money. I would have been more interested in opening them up and playing with them.

Auntie Lisa Visit

Dinosaur Farm

On our way back home we stopped by a place that had metal dinosaurs, made homemade donuts, and had a farmstand.

Dinosaur Farm

Josie refused to participate in any of the photos as she thought the dinosaurs were a little scary and she was extremely suspicious of the peach which also looked like a giant butt from the back.

Hockey Day

When we returned home I took the kids to the sports supply store and bought them hockey sticks as their old tiny sticks were just a bit too small.

Hockey Day

Martin is obssessed with being a goalie. Sometimes he'll be sulking over in the corner of the room. When you ask him what's wrong he says, "I'll never be a goalie! What if I can't stop every shot!" I'm not convinced that's the best temperment for a goalie but it's probably what goes on in the minds of every serious goalie out there.

Hockey Day

On one of the hottest and most humid day of the summer so far Martin decided to dress up in his Spider-Man costume (over his regular clothes) and shoot the puck. I went out to see how he was doing. He was dripping with sweat but he was committed. "Is your team the Spidermen?"

"No," he replied. "We're the Spiders!"

Eventually I coaxed him back inside as I was a little worried he would collapse from heat exhaustion.

There is very little that can keep him from playing hockey nonstop these days. I'm wondering if this will just be a phase or if the money we save from them leaving daycare is now merely going to be funneled into expensive hockey equipment.

Of course, unless he becomes an entire NHL team we are probably safe.

For now.