Thursday, December 1, 2016

Post Vacation Yule Slog

Before leaving for our trip I had ordered a few special gifts for the boys to receive upon our return.


The first was in fitting with their newfound obsession with Pokemon. It was a gross of random assorted Pokemon figurines. They're pretty tiny but were a really big hit. Much like our last trip we returned a few days before everyone had to go back to school and work and were able to enjoy a few days of relative relaxation just hanging out around the house and not having to pile into a car for multiple hour rides.

Making Fall Fun List

Jen made her fall fun list with the kids after the success of our summer fun list.

First Day of Pre-K

The boys had their first day of Pre-K, and Josie began her regular full day attendance. She seemed to grow accustomed to it much more quickly than her brothers had when we first moved here.

Apple Picking

Most years we procrastinate apple picking until the trees are pretty much bare. This year we got a great jump on it and were able to pick apples in beautiful weather before the Honeycrisps were even ready. We also got to see two trees planted with seeds from Johnny Appleseed. We were advised against eating apples from the tree as they were deemed to be "kinda nasty."

Still, it's fun from a historical standpoint.

Bubses at Two Brothers

We took the kids to Aurora for the morning to get coffee and hunt Pokemon.

Day Trip to Adler Planetarium

We also followed up with a trip to Adler Planetarium where we marveled at the beauty of space and also took part in some of the best Pokemon hunting in the Chicagoland area. Jen probably enjoyed the Pokemon hunting the most due to her intense hatred of space.

Taking Josie in Bike Trailer

For my birthday I got a sweet deal on a really nice bike and also just happened to get a sweet deal on a bike trailer thanks to Target mislabeling it in the store. So I took Josie on a ride by the river to test it out.

Emergency Chicken Pox Booster

Cousin Oliver mysteriously contracted chicken pox prior to his scheduled vaccination so we had to take all the kids in for emergency boosters just to be safe.

Chicken Pox Booster Dinner Balloons

Since getting booster shots is not the best after school treat we took them to Colonial Cafe where they just happened to have someone going around making balloon "animals" for the kids so the night ended up better than it started.

Playing with Swing at Island Park

We took the kids to Geneva where we went to Island Park where they got to take advantage of a playground with an amazing rope swing.

Oktoberfest Dinner

We were able to celebrate Oktoberfest with a wonderful assortment of Oktoberfest foods. I was too lazy to make spaetzle but everything else was delicious.

S'mores by the Fire

We waited way late into the "summer" for our first fire of the year but the kids went crazy for s'mores.

Day at Morton Arboretum

We visited the Morton Arboretum and took advantage of their beautiful fall foliage.

Day at Morton Arboretum

The boys also tried their hand at battling gyms in Pokemon Go with their mother for the first time. I think she did most of the heavy lifting in those battles but Martin's ferociousness in battle is something to be reckoned with.

Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner

Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner

Canadian Thanksgiving rolled around and I achieved perhaps my finest roast turkey of my life. Brining for a day and then interlacing bacon slices under the skin is apparently the key to achieving success and something I look forward to duplicating again in the future.

Backyard Visitor

We were also visited by a hundred pound raccoon who now calls our yard home and is apparently able to scale our fence in less than a second.

Day at the Adler Planetarium

We took the boys back to the planetarium by request and left Josephine with Grandma for the afternoon. While it was sad to not have her take part she doesn't get a ton out of it and it's about ten percent as hard taking just the two of them. Eighteen-month-olds do not make anything in life less complicated.

Martin Coloring Pokemon

Martin's coloring obsession has reached newfound heights as he continues to color his way through any Pokemon he can think of.

Ninja Turtle Pancakes

We had a long awaited sleepover with Evelyn and opened up the next morning with my normal pancakes by request. That morning was ninja turtles, a brief break from random Pokemon.

Late Fall Outdoor Eating

We were even able to enjoy a last meal out on our fall leaf covered deck when temperatures reached the eighties one night.

Trunk or Treat

Trunk or Treat came upon us and we had, by far, the best time this year. The boys have reached an age where they are infinitely more manageable and the weather was so perfect that Josie had little to fuss about, particularly with how much candy she ate.

Trunk or Treat

The cousins joined along as all five children kept to a superhero theme this Halloween.

Martin and Josie Raking

Raking this year was its normal never-ending nightmare. While I enjoy mowing the lawn far more than I thought I would as a homeowner, the act of raking leaves to me is one of the worst chores imaginable. I'm not very good at it, I hate it, and I put it off until patches of our lawn are dead.

I really do miss having a super.

Coloring with Nana

Nana and Grandpa showed up before Halloween to join in on the endless coloring and preparation for the Halloween celebration.

Tea Party with Nana and Grandpa

A rare Nana and Grandpa tea party occurred, normally reserved for visits by Grandma.

Pumpkin Carving

Pumpkin carving garnered a lot more interest by the boys this year. Last year they just kind of looked at the pumpkin in passing while I did all the work with the help of Evelyn who was actually pretty interested. This year they were pumped.

Halloween 2016

Trick or Treating was also an activity that held their attention longer this year. Again, the beautiful weather certainly helped but they were all so into it.

Birthday Lunch with Daddy

On my birthday we took the kids downtown to the library and had lunch at a restaurant nearby which was a lot of fun. We went out the following night for dinner with my parents and had a great time.

Voting Buddies

On election day I took the boys with me to our polling place to show them how the voting worked. They seemed to think there was a lot more crawling under the tables involved than is typical a part of our nation's electoral process.

Target Fun

We also went to Target where the boys tried on about a dozen different bike helmets but were so well behaved about not buying everything they saw.


Then we went out for lunch in Aurora where I let them catch some Pokemon as well.

Aurora Pokemon Hunt

Afterward we headed to the river to search for more Pokemon.

Post Voting Pokemon Hunt

Then we took a nice bike ride in the prairie enjoying the beautiful weather.

Pumpkin with Cornbread Sausage Stuffing

For dinner I made a sausage and cornbread stuffed roast pumpkin, an annual favorite that we hadn't yet gotten to this year.

Thanksgiving Kids

For Thanksgiving we had a proper kids table for the first time in a long while and the brilliance of the kids table was reinforced by the experience. I'm sorry to tell them that they won't be joining the adults at the table for any holiday again until they're eighteen.

Sibling Chair

We had a great day after Thanksgiving just kicking around the house and ended up unexpectedly decorating the entire house for Christmas and watching Christmas movies. This is probably the earliest we've ever done this but with the kids being as into it as they were it was worth it.

Never Gets Old

We also did our second annual unplanned trip to Meijer. Completely against character we bought this animatronic Santa that sings a weird parody of Tutti Frutti with a Christmas theme and Elvis impression. They kids all love it so much it was hard to resist. They just set him off and then sit there and marvel at his magnificence.

First Egg Nog of the Year

After dinner I gave the boys their first egg nog of the year. They were hesitant at first, not really remembering it from last year. However, I think Martin's reaction after his first sip tells the tale. They were hooked and are likely going to lose their minds when January comes and we can't get any more.

I know I will.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

2016 North American Road Trip (Part 3)

With bellies full of little breads we got into the car after breakfast and began the journey north.

Whetstone Station

After about three hours of driving we stopped in southern Vermont at Whetstone Station, an incredible brewhouse with fantastic beer and wonderful food overlooking the Connecticut river which, surprisingly, marks the border between Vermont and New Hampshire.

Ghost Farmer Imperial Brown Ale

We met a friend, Frank, who was kind enough not only to meet us for lunch but to bring along this wonderful rare ale for my collection.

Daddy and Josie at Whestone Brewery

We dined inside but I spent the majority of the meal chasing Josephine around the restaurant and making sure she didn't leap over the railing and into the river below. This is pretty much all there is to do when you take a fifteen month old to a restaurant of any kind, particularly after strapping them into a car seat for multiple hours.

The Saddest Sign in All Vermont

On the road to Burlington I tried to procure some Heady Topper but, as always, I was hours too late to stand a chance.

Crepe Cart in Burlington

As we approached northern Vermont we made a point of stopping in one of our favorite cities: Burlington. Like all times we are downtown in Burlington, we were starving, and made a point of hitting up our favorite crepe cart.

Josie Eating Crepe

The children were out of their minds after an entire day in the car and ended up running through the downtown nearly knocking pedestrians over. As Jen went back for a second round of crepes an obviously drunk man approached me and Josephine and kindly told me how cute she was and how blessed I was. He then turned to someone else and said, "Don't look at me like that. I'll f--- you up!"

It was a wonderful moment.

The Road to Montreal

We trekked on, entering Canada around sunset and making our way to our Airbnb where the kids stayed up until about midnight, playing with their kindles and waiting for the rest of the family to meet us.

Grocery Shopping in Quebec with Auntie Lisa

The next morning we woke up early and the boys and I headed out with Auntie Lisa to pick up groceries for our stay.

Josie and Mummy in Pool

We returned back to have the inaugural swim at the new place.

Martin Jumping in Pool

Elliott Jumping in Pool

The boys were super excited but Josie decided that she hated the float we got for her so we ended up having to hold her the entire time we swam.

Elliott swam so much that he developed a nasty rash from the bathing suit lining and had to sit out a day, much to his disappointment.

Josie at Great Grandpa's

We later went to Great Grandpa's to get some quality time with the nicest man in Quebec.

Hanging with Great Grandpa

Great Grandpa was treated to an amount of wrestling he likely seldom sees on a daily basis.

Jenny with Grandpa

Despite our repeated apologies for destroying his apartment, Great Grandpa insisted he was delighted to have us over.

Arriving at Katherine and Peter's

Later that day we went to visit Cousin Sophia for her birthday. The approach through the flock of lawn flamingos is now remembered as a top ten moment of the trip for the boys.

Josie Enjoying the Shrimp

Coming in slightly above that was the shrimp which Peter grilled up. They were, indeed, some of the tastiest shrimp I've ever had. I say that despite only gettin ga few bites as all three children continually descended upon me each time I sat down with a skewer.

The Guardian of the Bouncy House

Grandad brought up the bouncy house partly so the children could use it the next day at Great Nana's birthday party, partly so he could complain about having to lug it around. It was enjoyed though not as much as he had hoped for the hassle it caused him.

Josie and Jackson

The Canadian cousins took to Josie very quickly. They were quick to embrace her, perhaps because she was the least likely to try to steal their toys.

Jen, Lisa, Nana, and Lauren

The sisters wished Great Nana a happy birthday before we headed back for the night.

Martin's Makeshift Pile to Reach Sink

Martin enjoys being self sufficient and was quick to figure out that if he piled everything up in the bathroom that he could reach, then put the bathroom scale on top, he could use that as a platform to reach the sink to wash his hands.

Elliott is Excited About Lebanese Food

Everyone in the family came over that night and the guys went out to pick up Lebanese food. I don't know why but Elliott was more excited about Lebanese food than he has ever been about any food, or anything for that matter. He just kept pointing at things he wanted to try, trying them, then exclaiming about how yummy they were. It may have been his best moment in life.

Tea Party with Great Grandpa

The following day we returned to Great Grandpa's where we undid any cleaning he may have done since our previous visit and had a tea party with him.

5/9 of the Great Grandchildren

Then it was off to Aunt Nancy and Uncle Jim's for dinner where were were able to get a better picture of fewer grandchildren. Since the kids were in a before bed frenzy it took about eight hundred shots to get this one.

Martin's Mosquito Bite Face

Elliott's Mosquito Bite Face

Josephine's Mosquito Bite Face

Montreal took its toll on the kids in the form of dozens of mosquito bites. Nowhere else on our trip did we really encounter any mosquitoes but in Montreal everyone got attacked. Lauren even had the opportunity to get stung in the neck by a wasp. I'm pretty sure a three day trip through Panamanian rain forest would have yielded fewer bug bites than we suffered in Montreal.

Cart Full of Bubses

After an ill advised morning of delays we ended up at a Costco in Montreal for lunch and passport photos.

Canadian Passport Photos

With their photos taken we are now able to get the kids their Canadian passports. That is assuming that the notoriously picky Canadian government accepts the photos.

Trucker Fighting with Car on the 401

On the trip to Toronto we encountered many parts of the highway closed for construction. One such slow down caused a several hundred foot gap in traffic when a truck and another driver were engaged in a fifteen minute shouting match. I was confident they were eventually going to get out of their vehicles and start throwing punches but somehow the drivers were able to settle their differences simply by shaking their fists and hurling insults.

It was a better outcome than we can generally expect in a similar situation in America.

Late Night Jedi Training with Cousin Tim

We rolled into Toronto pretty late where we had dinner and cousin Tim was there to engage in a Jedi training session with the boys which riled them up but made them sleep like champions through the night.

Martin's Special Request Breakfast

The next morning, before leaving for Kalamazoo, Aunt Wendy made the mistake of asking the boys what they wanted for breakfast. Elliott asked for cereal, Martin asked for a soft boiled egg with toast. I'm not sure why since I don't think we've ever made that for him. However, Aunt Wendy is a lot more accommodating than we would have been.

Goalie Training with Grandad

As Cousin Tim left for hockey practice, Martin and Elliott got a chance to try on some of his equipment and Grandad gave them some pointers.

We then departed, got on the highway and stopped at a Tim Horton's about an hour away for breakfast where we realized we'd forgotten the bag with our passports. I took it rather poorly but by the time we got back to Aunt Wendy and Uncle Glenn's I'd shaken most of the intense anger I felt and we decided to stay an extra day in Toronto.

At the Toronto Zoo

We took advantage of the day but exploring a tiny portion of the Toronto Zoo on an incredibly hot day.

Giant Panda Experience

The line said it was 45 minutes to see the giant pandas but an insider at the zoo let us know the signs told lies and, indeed, we were able to get in line and see the and pandas in under ten minutes. This was good because seeing pandas in a zoo is, overall, pretty disappointing as they just lie around and generally look miserable.

Elliott Learning About Pandas

Elliott had more fun just using the kiosks to learn panda facts.

Splash Pad at the Toronto Zoo

There was also an enormous splash pad where the kids had a great time running around and cooling off.

Pokestop Sign at the Toronto Zoo

The Toronto Zoo also happens to be a pretty happening spot for Pokemon Go so there were signs everywhere alerting everyone to be aware. I'm guessing more than one person has been run over by a zoo employee in a golf cart trying to catch a Sandshrew.

Visit with the Hughes in Toronto

Another bonus of staying an extra day late is we got to see Lynn and Peter, mother and father to my best friend, Paul. They got to meet the children for the first time and we got to catch up.

Rough Night

Unfortunately Josie had her only bad night of the entire trip right as we were planning on getting up at 5:00 AM to set out early for Kalamazoo. It was a slow start the next morning.

Hugging Moose at Duty Free

After a bit of driving we made a stop at the duty free where the kids ran wild and we stocked up on supplies before crossing the border.

Happy to be at the Air Zoo

Back in the States we went to Kalamazoo and visited the Air Zoo.

Rides at the Air Zoo

The Air Zoo could not be a better place to spend an afternoon with kids. There are airplains, museum pieces, and amazing carnival rides that are clean, safe, and manned by people that don't look like escaped felons.

Josie Does Not Like Rides

Despite repeatedly begging to go on rides, Josie was not a fan of any of the rides she tried.

Elliott and Lisa

We then met up with Auntie Lisa and Uncle Adam at One Well Brewing where we had some amazing food and beer before making the final leg of our journey home.

One Well Brewing Beer Flight

One Well Brewing had really great beer and I shared a flight with Jen before we headed out.

Elliott, Adam, and Martin Playing Pinball

The boys didn't eat much but they entertained themselves with a lot of pinball and video games, pretty much ending the trip on the best note possible.

We made the remaining two-and-a-half hour drive nonstop and got the kids to bed with relatively no fuss.

Overall it was a fantastic trip. Two years is enough time to pass to trick you into wanting to do a road trip like this again. The difficulty and frustration melts away over the years and you only remember the fond memories and times spent with family and friends.

Josie was at probably the most challenging age to do a trip like this. If we were to do it again in a year things would be much easier as she would be much more prone to sit there and watch all of Frozen without getting bored. Mr. Rogers seemed to be the only thing that would keep her interest on this trip.

The comforting thing is that with the three children any future road trip will be easier. Sixteen months may be the most challenging road trip age we've ever encountered. Not really for any reason other than that Josie just wanted to get out of her seat and run around at all times. Who can blame her when she has newly learned the skill of walking?

Similarly I just wanted to get out of my seat and play Pokemon Go as I had newly aquired this skill before the trip. So I can relate.

I guess we all have to "catch 'em all" in our own way.