Wednesday, April 28, 2010

This makes me smile.

I know that the worst part of having to make a decision is the actual making of that decision. Once the decision is made, whatever way you have decided to go - it is over, it is done. You can move on with your life with new resolve to deal with any consequences that arise from the choice you made. But making the decision is so hard and so worrisome.

We have been wrestling for the last couple of months with that very kind of decision. We were not sure whether we should let Evan progress to the first grade or have him stay in Kindergarten for another year. His teacher thought that he was doing fine. She told us that he wasn't a kid that she would normally recommend to retain. I think that I had unfair expectations of where he should be and what he should be doing because I compared him to Spencer. (I know that every kid is different and you should never compare them! But as a Mom, I compare my kids to each other.) Spencer went to DK, so Spence was a year older than Evan is in Kindergarten. So obviously, Spencer was a little bit more advanced in some areas. Don't get me wrong, Evan is not dumb. He is right where he should be and right where Spencer was in most areas. Where he struggles is the reading and writing that they have to do. Yeah, you read that right. Reading and Writing. In Kindergarten. When I was in Kindergarten we were just learning letters "I'm Mr. M...with a Munching Mouth....My Mouth goes Munch, Munch, Munch...". Back in those days you were some kind of genius if you could write your name before Kindergarten. We won't even talk about my sister who in DK used to sit in front of her class next to the teacher and read to them. Overachiever. I kid because I am sister IS a genius. Or maybe she was just never traumatized by having to write her initials on a piece of paper and having kids in her Kindergarten class laugh because her initials were "J.J." and compare her to the character on Good Times.

But, I digress. Evan struggles a bit with reading and writing. He gets frustrated because it does not come easily to him, so he just kind of shuts down and doesn't give it his best effort. So I thought maybe repeating Kindergarten wouldn't be such a bad thing. Give him an extra year to get it all down pat and then move on to first grade.

First grade seems so old to me. I know that he is going to be six next week, but I swear when I look at him I still see that sweet little baby face. First grade means that he will be in school all day. Gulp. At this point it is so hard to imagine my days without him in it. I thought back to how the extra year Spencer had gave him and Evan another year to be able to play together in the afternoons and bond. My heart was telling me that Evan and Hailey needed that same kind of time together to learn to get along, because heaven knows their battles tend to be epic. I really think that I wanted someone to tell me that he needed to repeat Kindergarten. Nobody did.

The night of our parent teacher conference when I was tucking Evan into bed, he asked me what his teacher said about him. I asked him what he thought she would say and he told me "she will probably say that I have to try harder at writer's workshop." The kid knows what is going on. I told him that Daddy and I were trying to decide if he should go to Kindergarten again so he could get more practice at writing and reading or if he should move on to first grade. He looked up at me with his big ol' brown eyes and said "I want to go to first grade." Gulp.

Then it hit me. If his teacher who is with these kids all day and knows what is expected of them thinks he is ready to move on, why don't I have the same kind of faith in my own child? Do I think that he is not ready to move on, or am I just not ready to let him go?

The simple answer to that question is that I will never be ready to let him go, but I know now that I have to. If everything stays status quo, he will move on to first grade in the fall. We have been doing some extra work on reading and writing in the afternoon while Hailey naps and he seems to be improving by just a little bit of one on one practice.

As for the title of this post, he brought this home from school the other day and it just made me so happy. Can you read what he wrote? Sound it out phonetically....


I feel good about our decision, but I still pray that we made the right one. My biggest fear is that he will start school feeling behind and that will seep into his psyche and cause him to lack confidence in himself. I want him to be as proud of himself as we are of him. He is such an amazing person!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The bike lesson

Spencer at eight and three quarter years of age.

Has finally mastered the two wheel bicycle.

I don't know who had the bigger smile on their face. Him or me.

I don't know who was more proud of his accomplishment. Him or me.

As he was riding around in circles unable to stop smiling he said to me "This is the greatest day of my life!"

Sunday, April 25, 2010


My only daughter and my only tulip. (Thanks to the deer and other animals that enjoy feasting on the buds of my beautiful spring flowers.)

When I was getting Hailey dressed, I pulled this sweatshirt on her and when she realized that the thing on her head was the hood part of the shirt she asked me "Why am I wearing Doovy's shirt?" I was amazed that her three year old brain was observant enough to recognize that hoodie sweatshirts are Evan's upper body cover of choice. I told her that it wasn't Doovy's it was hers. She laughed and said "Silly Hailey! I think I look like Doovy in this shirt though!"

Friday, April 23, 2010

"when the coast is clear...."

These photos were taken on a walk to the beach sometime last week. The only reason I feel the need to clarify that is because Hailey is still sportin' a pretty steak worthy black eye in these shots and now all that is left of her battle scar is a little bit of discoloration.

I know I have said it a hundred times before, but I LOVE where we live. I love that the lake is just steps away from our front door. I love that on a sunny day we can decide out of the blue to go hang out on the beach for a bit. I love that on windy days you can hear the waves roaring from right over the dune. I especially love spring and fall at the beach. The sky is a true blue and more often then not the lake is as smooth as glass and there is not a soul in sight. It always reminds me of Jimmy Buffets' "Coast is Clear" song.

I didn't realize until I was editing these photos that they were both wearing shirts with alligators on them. Very differently depicted alligators. There is not much description to go with any of the photos - they are just snapshots of a very entertaining couple of hours spent in one of our favorite places.

Photo note: I have been playing around a bit with some textures in PSE. The first photo of Hailey's feet and the black and white of the two of them have a texture added to them. I don't know how much it adds, just kind of fun to experiment with.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Buzz, Buzz, Buzz

I had a few photos that I took of some plants and flowers in our garden and I thought what better day to post them then on Earth Day?

To commemorate the day the boys wore their "planet friendly" shirts to school. This afternoon Evan and I are going to pot a basil plant that I purchased this morning at the Walmarts. I love basil, but I am so tired of buying it. For one thing it is so expensive for the little packets I buy and I only end up using a portion of it and the rest goes bad. The worst part about purchasing it though is that when I check out I usually go through the self checkouts and the basil will not scan at the self checkouts. I have to flag over a cashier to help me - and the cashiers are always super busy it seems so I wait and wait and wait. The cashiers have told me that the basil never scans - it would seem that maybe someone could work on a solution to fix that problem. Enough of my basil woes. Hopefully my basil plant will yield an extensive crop and I will never have check out issues again.

I am not sure how warm it is supposed to get today, but it would be nice to walk to the beach or park and hang out a little bit in the great outdoors.

And what is an Earth Day celebration without the enjoyment of some dirt sundaes? That will be another project for Evan and I this afternoon.

Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Is this Chicago or is this Other Chicago?

Alternate title: The second part of our Spring Break trip.

We decided to break up the trip home from Mirabel and Lainey's house by spending a night in Chicago. We have been there a few times with the boys, but this was Hailey's first foray into the big city. We were excited for her to experience the city and to see the sights, but a bit nervous about the uneven adult to child ratio.

Our first stop was in Schaumberg (or Other Chicago -as it is known around our house). We ran into the IKEA to look at storage units and to buy some wine glasses. We decided to eat lunch there instead of wasting time at a restaurant and really, who am I kidding, their meatballs are seriously one of the best things on this Earth to me. The kids were fascinated by the carts riding down the escalators by themselves, Hailey almost got herself sucked into an escalator and they begged to spend some time in Smaland (the IKEA kid play area that I refuse the name of unless it is spoken in a strong German sounding accent and then you proceed to talk as Dwight Schrute would about his Grandmuter and beet farms).

We then headed over to LEGO land. Where the kids had smiles plastered across their faces the whole time.

Spencer and Harry Potter.

Evan and Darth Vadar.

Hailey and Dickens' best friend.

This picture makes me laugh. We saw a 4-D LEGO movie of Bob and Builder and then stood in line to watch the next movie which I can't remember the name of.

Evan building something out of LEGOS.

Spence testing out the structural soundness of his skyscraper.

We left Schaumberg and headed into for downtown where we were spending the night. The traffic wasn't too terrible, but the drive kinda was. Trent had his iPhone all programmed to the route he wanted to take, but then the iPhone died and he hadn't brought along his car charger. Oops. That means I had to take it all old school and get out a map. Maps and I are not really good friends. Maps cause my husband to get extremely frustrated with me. I figured out the way for us to go with the map and of course the exit that I had taken sweet forever to come up with was CLOSED!

Anyhoo....with no thanks to me we finally found or hotel. (Which was awesome and right across the street from the Drake - that part is very much thanks to me!). We cleaned up a bit and headed out to walk the streets of Chicago to the Rainforest Cafe. It was about eighty degrees out (unseasonably warm) so the ten or so block walk to the restaurant was very entertaining.

When the Rainforest Cafe came into our view, so did the giant pack of people waiting outside of the restaurant. My heart just sank because I knew the kids were already tired and I didn't know how long of a wait they could reasonably deal with. I told Trent I would go ask how long the wait was and he handed me a business card looking thing to give to them. Something that the concierge at the hotel had given him. I gave him a goofy look and took the card. The people in front of me had four people in their party and she told them that the wait would be 45 to 50 minutes. My heart sank a little lower. I told her that we had five and I also had this (the card from the concierge). She looked at the card and said that they would seat us as soon as possible, but they were busy so it would probably be 15 to 20 minutes. I was elated and very impressed with my husband for securing that tiny piece of awesomeness! I was beyond elated when not even three minutes later I heard our name called to be seated. I was beyond, beyond elated when we were seated in one of the best tables in the whole place! Concierges in high end hotels totally ROCK!

It was Hailey's first visit to the Rainforest Cafe and to say she loved it would be a gross understatement. She kept staring over the edge into the waterfall and looking at the alligator.

Evan was very excited about his root beer in the bottle. At the restaurant they offer these giant plastic cups filled with this rainbow slushy type drink. In the past our boys have gotten those and paid dearly for it later in the evening. We put the ke-bash on the slushys this year for many reasons. First and foremost - the puke factor. Second, the fact that they cost as much as a new pair of shoes and mainly because we still have a pair of the cups hanging around our house that have become the bane of my existence. I really don't need another trio to deal with.

You just can't go to the Rainforest Cafe without ordering a Volcano for dessert. I think Hailey ate more of it than everyone else combined.

I love how when Hailey doesn't want to be in a picture, you can tell that she REALLY doesn't want to be in the picture.

Our walk home from the restaurant was at a bit faster pace. The temperature had dropped by about twenty degrees. I love how the city looks at night. I love this kind of spooky looking picture of the water tower. I love that you can see the sign for the Allerton Hotel Tip Tap Top in the back. Spence got the biggest kick out of that.

My tired sleeping babies. A few hours after this shot was taken, Evan got up and threw up "Volcano" all over the hotel room. It never fails, slushy drink or no slushy drink... someone always pukes in Chicago.

The next morning was cold and rainy. My boys walking the streets of the downtown.

Hailey didn't like how noisy it is in the city at all!

Eyeing a giant Hershey bar.

One of my favorite spots on the Magnificent Mile. Some guy offered to take our picture. Is it wrong that I immediately thought that he was going to run off with my camera and was rehearsing what I would shout at him as he ran away in my head - that he could take the camera as long as he gave me back the memory card?

Evan's preferred mode of transportation.

After a quick lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, we checked out of our hotel and hit the road for the Museum of Science and Industry.

The boys at the submarine exhibit. This picture makes me laugh because we didn't tell Evan to salute. He came up with that totally on his own.

Dad hanging out in the 747 with a tired Hailey and a sleeping Evan.
Evan and Hailey were simply exhausted from being away from home for almost a week and spending our days in a flurry of activity. Parts of the museum kept their interest, but for the most part, it was a little to "old" for them. Evan fell asleep in the stroller for at least an hour.
Spencer was in his glory. Science and how things work are right up his alley. He could have stayed at the museum forever.

Evan did wake up to see the baby chick exhibit. I am so glad he did. It turned out to be his favorite part of the whole museum. He watched those baby chicks for so long. He would press his face to the glass (I know...yuck!) and the chicks would run right up to him. He had the biggest smile on his face.

Chicago was a blast. And having all three kids with us wasn't an issue at all. We can't wait to go back to Chicago and to Madison. Or even better yet.... meet Dana and Mark and the girls in Chicago sometime this summer.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Are we in Florida yet?

Alternate title: The first part of our trip.

We got home a week ago from our spring vacation. Our drive consisted of six hours (each way) in the car with the kids - in other words twelve hours of Scooby Doo and Max and Ruby's Easter Egg Hunt over and over again. On our way to our first destination we stopped about two hours in our driving time to switch drivers (because I was too scared to drive in Chicago traffic) and to grab a bite to eat. As we got within an hour or so of our destination the kids were dealing with a lot of excitement, over tiredness and possibly a Mickey or two that had been slipped into their kiddie meals. The sounds we heard from the back made Trent and I look at each other in utter entertainment and confusion.

I am trying to make cookie dough with my ice cream. - Evan

Are we in Florida yet? - Hailey

You know how dogs are colorblind? - Spencer

I can't see if it's cookie dough yet. Where is the light? - Evan

Be REALLY careful when you open this cooler. - Spencer

Are we in FLORIDA yet? - Hailey

I have to go to the bathroom REALLY bad. -Evan

Where is Mirabel's house? -Hailey

My eyes are very full. That means they are tired. - Evan

Soon enough the strings of nonsense ended and we had arrived at our destination. Mirabel and Lainey's house (sorry Day and Mark, once you have kids, no one is really coming to see you anymore. Ha!).

Hailey wasted no time getting to know and love on her new little cousin. She has been looking forward to holding Lainey since she found out that she was out of Aunt DayDay's tummy.

Trent and I took our kids and Mirabel to the zoo on Friday. We both got an arm workout since the zoo was totally crowded and we were nervous to set the little girls down for fear of them disappearing in the crowd. There was a fenced in area at the zoo that was empty and Evan asked me why there were no animals in there. I told him that I thought that was where the flamingos used to be but maybe they didn't have flamingos anymore or maybe it was too cold for them. A bit later we saw the flamingos over near the children's zoo area. Evan told me, "Mom! There are the flamingos! I know what must have happened. The flamingos got a new habitat!" Habitat. My boy is a genius. That or he watches a lot of Go! Diego Go!

On Friday afternoon, we continued our Good Friday tradition of coloring Easter eggs. I told my sister we would need to boil at least two dozen eggs because the kids really got into the whole egg decorating. I laughed later when she told me that when Mark had called and asked how long we would be doing the eggs she told him "a couple hours". Those kids had all twenty four eggs colored in about fifteen minutes. They are not ones for the deep dark colored eggs. It is pretty much dip, take out, get a new egg. Pastel eggs are apparently all the rage.

This picture makes me laugh. All I can say is "hairdo". Oh darlin' baby girl! What are we gonna do with that hair of yours?

My sweet Evan. Please remind your Momma to trim your nails. Evan is usually the one who has the most staying power when it comes to egg decorating. He was distracted this year though. Lured by the power of the Star Wars Wii.

Mirabel got to have her first egg dyeing experience with her big cousins. She did great and didn't even crack an egg!

On Saturday we drove a bit out of town and went to The Cave of the Mounds. A real, big ol' cave that you can walk through.

It was really cool. I only thought once about the fact that it could totally collapse and trap or crush us to death. I know. But doesn't everyone have some kind of crazy in them?

And on Sunday morning, of course, the Easter Bunny left some baskets and hid some eggs.

I watched Hailey opening her plastic eggs that were filled with candy. Every one that she opened she would see the candy and exclaim "Oh! Beautiful!" Every. Single. Egg. That girl loves her some candy.

There may or may not have been a couple attempts at a photo shoot with Sweet Elaina. More on that later.

My handsome boys. This picture just makes my heart so full. I can't believe how fast these kids are growing. They got along so well during the the whole trip.

Hailey and one of her besties. Though I can see this tight knit twosome growing by a person when Lainey gets a bit older. Perhaps someday they will even construct their own little MLH Fun Park. Complete with haunted balance beam which includes a withered dead snake in an old tire. For reals. You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried.

Our family on Easter Sunday. Don't think I didn't use a little bit of Photoshop magic on the bags under my eyes. And also know that this picture makes me feel the need to dial up the salon ASAP. Eyebrows. Apparently I have never heard of tweezers. I am also rethinking my current hairdo. If you can even call that a hairdo.

Sister's family on Easter Sunday. Yeah, she just had a baby five weeks ago and she looks that good. Go ahead. You are allowed to hate her.

The cutest cousins EVER on Easter Sunday. I had to tell Spencer to hold on to Lainey as if his life depended on it or sister would have never let go of her. Just wait until she has Baby #3 - she will be propping her up on the ground with a piece of wood and some twine. For the record, I don't think sister has any intentions of having Baby #3. She has seen what it has done to me.

We spent Easter at my Aunt and Uncle's house. They live in the same town as my sister. Hailey may have found another new best friend. Watch your back Mirabel!

Elaina wore the same dress on Easter that Hailey wore for her first Easter. I saw this shot I had of Elaina and had to dig out a similar shot that I knew I had of Hailey. I have to get my act together and get my old photos into a scrapbook or some sort of album. I got out that picture packet and looked at the photos of that Easter three years ago. Oh my heart! Spencer with his toothless grin, Evan with his sweet three year old little round face and Hailey in her three month new baby adorableness. When did these children of mine stop being babies and grow into kids?

See what I mean? Hailey was just this size YESTERDAY! At least it was yesterday in my mind. Hailey looks a bit crazed in this photo. It could have been the four or forty pieces of candy she ingested that day.

Our trip ended pretty much the same way it began, with kisses and loves for Baby Lainey. We had a fabulous time in Wisconsin and loved the laidbackness of the trip (that is probably not even a word, but I know what I mean). The feeling may not be mutual since I am sure that they are all still digging out from our family hurricane that swept through their entire house and yard. We love you guys!

Next installment: Our time in the big city! or the alternate title Someone always pukes in Chicago.